Leaking Basement in Newly Purchased Home
Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A
REM # LAW 757
By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Summary: A ThinkGlink reader just bought a
home and now the basement is flooding. He wants to know if he can go after the
seller to pay for the repairs. Ilyce and Sam explain that the homeowner would
have to prove that the seller knew of the leak and failed to disclose it.
Q: I recently purchased a home where we are experiencing water leaking in a
finished basement (tri-level home). We did have a home inspection prior to purchasing
the property, but due to the wallpaper, nothing would have been able to be detected.
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It initially appears to be a crack in the foundation that is causing the leaking
and at this time, we’re unclear how severe the damage is. The initial
estimates to fix the problem suggest it could cost up to $10,000.
Do we have any legal recourse against the previous owner as nothing was indicated
on the disclosure when we purchased the home? If so, what is my best approach?
A: Most states have seller disclosure laws. These laws require a seller to
disclose to a buyer known material defects in the home. The first issue is to
determine whether the seller knew of the leak or the crack in the wall.
Did the seller paint or add the wall paper to the basement walls just before
putting it on the market to hide the water problem or the crack in the wall?
Did the neighbors see work being done in the home prior to listing it that might
relate to this problem? Did the seller do anything to hide the damage from being
If you can prove that the seller hid the problem, you may have a good case
against the seller. On the other hand, if the wallpaper has been in place for
a long time, it’s possible that your sellers didn’t know about it.
If you don’t think you can prove that the sellers knew of the problem,
you may have a hard time pursuing an action against the seller.
In some cases it’s possible that the problem you are now experiencing
is new. While the crack may have been there for some time, the water problem
may be new to the home. It’s even possible that new landscaping or just
the passage of time is now causing the water problem in the basement.
In order to go after the sellers, you’re going to need prove that they
knew of the problem, had a duty to disclose it to you and failed to disclose
A local real estate attorney or litigator who specializes in real estate can
provide further information about any legal options you may have.
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce
R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your
Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for
them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022
or contact them through Ilyce’s website www.thinkglink.com