Q: My foundation is cracked and the garage and steps are shrinking. My insurance company says it will not cover this kind of problem. The house was built in 1992, and I purchased it in 2000. I have been told that the foundation was cracked at that time and the sellers never disclosed this.
Do I have any recourse with the builder or sellers? I have been told the repair could cost as much as $45,000.
A: It is unfortunate that you have a cracked foundation, as well as other structural issues. I imagine that it will be quite expensive to fix these problems, although you should have a couple of contractors provide you with an estimate to repair the damage.
Before you panic about the cost, make sure you get estimates from at least three reputable contractors that can assist you in your foundation repair. Check out their references and see if they have any complaints lodged against them with the Better Business Bureau in your area. Once you have those estimates, you might find that the cost of repair is less than what you were once told.
Now, let’s go back in time: Assuming the foundation was cracked when you bought the property (and that’s a big if), you’d have to prove in court that the sellers knew or should have known about the problem and brought it to your attention. That’s a pretty tall order in and of itself, particularly when you’ve lived in the property 8 years and just now realized you have this problem.
Time may be against you on this issue. It has been more than 8 years since you purchased the property and even if you could prove that your sellers knew of the issue and should have disclosed it to you, your right to sue the sellers may have long passed. In most states, you have as little as one year and in others several years to bring a lawsuit against the seller for an issue like seller disclosure.
As far as recourse goes, you bought the home from the sellers, not the builder. By now, any warranty the original buyers received from the builder 16 years ago would have expired.
Now that you know about these issues, you will have to foot the bill to fix the problem since your homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover it.
I’m sorry I don’t have better news.
July 10, 2008.