Q: I bought a newly-constructed home from a builder four years ago. Now I have a “water in the basement” problem.
When I called to tell the builder about the problem, he said he was only responsible for one year from purchase date, which he says is the warranty period, so he advised me to fix it myself at my own expense.
I thought that when it comes to major problems like “water in the basement,” the builder is actually responsible for 10 years. Who is responsible for fixing this mess, me or builder?
A: What does your contract say? How are your warranty documents written? These papers will tell you what is covered by a 10-year warranty and what is covered by a 1-year warranty.
In many cases, some components of the mechanical systems of a home including the heating and air conditioning systems and sump pumps are covered by the manufacturer under the manufacturer’s warranty for a year.
For construction issues, the builder’s warranty may only be for one year. In some cases, it may be longer or shorter depending on the builder. Finally, if the basement was installed by a subcontractor that is responsible for its construction, that subcontractor might have some responsibility for construction problems beyond the builder’s one year warranty.
(For example, my 8-year old hot water heater is going. It has a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty, which means I’ll wind up paying only about $300 to replace — which is the cost of the labor to install it — rather than $1,000 if I had to buy a new one and install it.)
You also need to know why your basement is flooding. Is there a crack in the foundation somewhere? Did your sump pump fail? (If your sump pump failed and the basement flooded, you may be able to make a claim on your homeowners’ insurance if the damage is significant enough.) You need to find out why you have a “water problem” and how much it will cost to fix it. You may find that the problem is rather minor and will need a small, relatively inexpensive fix.
If the problem is a structural problem that will be a major issue, you should talk to some foundation experts and get a sense of what it will take to fix the problem. They you can try to determine if someone is at fault and whether you have a claim against someone.
Some basement water problems can be caused by poor maintenance of the landscaping around a home or even a homeowner’s failure to clean gutters and downspouts. If you have not taken care of your property, the builder should not be held responsible for these issues even if you were within the warranty period.
If you used an attorney to help you close the deal, the attorney will be able to go through your contract and walk you through the coverage you’ve received. If you didn’t use a real estate attorney, you may want to meet with one to go over your paperwork to assess your situation and discuss any legal options you have.