Can I Sue if the House I Bought Has a Leaky Basement?

What if the Basement Leaks Years After I Bought the House?

stick_figure_sit_in_question_mark_400_clrThis year’s heavy rain has caused many Lake County, Indiana real estate buyers to find their basements full of water or walls that seep water. As many people have discovered, a leaky basement can cause thousands of dollars of structural damage and can cause things stored downstairs to be destroyed. If you do not fix a leaking basement, the problems will only get worse. Unfortunately, fixing a wet basement can be a devastating expense for a home buyer. But, suppose you, the home buyer, does not discover this until after you’ve bought the home? What if it is over a year? Do you have any recourse against the Seller of the home? Short answer: perhaps. You will need to talk it over with an experienced Indiana attorney who is knowledgeable about these kinds of cases to know whether or not you have a case.

In most cases, a seller of real estate in the state of Indiana place upon the sellers a duty to disclose defects in the property that they knew about, including a leaky basement. Indiana law requires most sellers to complete a disclosure form that asks if there are moisture issues in the basement or crawlspace. If the seller claims there were no water issues, then later you encounter water issues, and the seller knew about the problem, you may have grounds for a lawsuit to make the seller pay to repair your leaky basement.

Contact a Lake County, Indiana attorney to protect your rights and your home.

What Causes a Basement or Crawlspace to Leak?

Although there are many ways that water may enter your basement, the two main ways are condensation and leaking. When it rains, the excess water that the soil cannot handle causes the water table to rise. The extra water causes a force called “hydrostatic pressure” to push against the sides and floor of your basement. Over time, this pressure can cause your basement to crack or allow water to seep through an old or subpar foundation. This is especially true in northwest Indiana because clay soil does not drain very well.

Consequences of a Wet Basement

Water is a basement’s enemy and can lead to mold, rotted wood, cracked foundations, and the loss of personal property. A small crack can quickly grow, damage your foundation, and allow moisture to enter your home. Once moisture (or a flood) enters, the water may destroy flooring, drywall, wood and other parts of your home. In some instances, expensive or priceless belongings may be destroyed. Worse yet, the moisture makes your home more susceptible to termites and dangerous mold. Ultimately, it devalues your home and can make it more difficult to sell later.

Your Legal Rights if You Bought a Home with a Leaky Basement

You may have a right to be compensated for the cost of repairs if you bought a home with a leaky basement. Indiana law allows a seller to sue if there was “fraudulent misrepresentation” in the seller’s real estate disclosure. In order to prove this, sellers must be able to prove five specific things:

  • The sellers made false statements of past or existing important facts
  • The sellers made such statements knowing them to be false or recklessly without knowledge as to their truth or falsity
  • The sellers made the statements to convince the buyers to act
  • The buyers justifiably relied upon the statements
  • The buyers suffer injury (this can include structural or other property damage)

Although every case is different, it is often difficult to show that the seller had actual knowledge of the wet basement. If you cannot prove the seller knew about the leaking basement, you will not be able to get compensated for your loss. If you believe you might have a case, you should work with an Indiana lawyer to evaluate the facts, investigate your case, and put the five pieces together to get you the compensation you deserve.

Contact a Lake County, Indiana attorney with experience in leaky basement cases to assess your case and find the clues that the seller may have known about the problem. Even if there isn’t a “smoking gun,” an experienced attorney will know the common signs of a cover-up, where to look for evidence, and what steps to take in order to investigate and pursue your case.

Protect your Home and Family Today

You should not ignore a wet or leaking basement. A wet basement can threaten your health and cause tens of thousands of dollars of property damage. While repairs may be costly, the costs of inaction can be much higher. Many local companies will visit your home and provide free estimates. Investigate your options and take actions.

Protect your home, your belongings, and your family’s health by contacting an experienced northwest Indiana basement repair company and a Lake County Indiana attorney today. You may be able to receive compensation for your repair costs and other damages, including attorney fees.

***

A Brief Background of the Law

Law on Leaky BasementsOur courts have long held that a ” purchaser has no right to rely upon the representations of the vendor as to the quality of the property, where he has a reasonable opportunity of examining the property and judging for himself as to its qualities.” See Cagney v. Cuson, 77 Ind. 494, 497 (1881); see also Dickerson v. Strand, 904 N.E.2d 711, 715 (Ind.Ct.App.2009); Pennycuff v. Fetter, 409 N.E.2d 1179, 1180 (Ind.Ct.App.1980).

If a seller undertakes to disclose facts within his knowledge, he must disclose the whole truth without concealing material facts and without doing anything to prevent the other party from making a thorough inspection. For, if in addition to his silence, there is any behavior of the seller which points affirmatively to a suppression of the truth or to a withdrawal or distraction of the other parties’ attention to the facts, the concealment becomes fraudulent.

Ind. Bank & Trust Co. of Martinsville, Ind. v. Perry, 467 N.E.2d 428, 431 (Ind.Ct.App.1984). See also Lyons v. McDonald, 501 N.E.2d 1079 (Ind.Ct.App.1986); Vetor v. Shockey, 414 N.E.2d 575, 577 (Ind.Ct.App.1980).

Pursuant to Indiana Code section 32-21-5-7(1) (2002 & Supp.2009), sellers of certain residential real estate are required to provide prospective buyers with a form adopted by the Indiana real estate commission disclosing known conditions of the property including:

(A) The foundation.

(B) The mechanical systems.

(C) The roof.

(D) The structure.

(E) The water and sewer systems.

(F) Additions that may require improvements to the sewage disposal system.

(G) Other areas that the Indiana real estate commission determines are appropriate.


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What if There is No Last Will & Testament?

What if there is no Will?Death Without a Will

Unfortunately, it is all too common for a mother or father to die without having made a final Will.  It can create some difficulties for the heirs. It can also bring about some serious family conflicts.

In Lake County, Indiana, the probate system is fairly typical of those systems across the country. (Probate is that legal system consisting of rules and laws which govern the handling of the estate of those who die, with or without a Last Will & Testament.) 

The essence of any probate systems is to provide a set of rules for distributing the assets within the estate of those who die.
While every state’s laws differ in some respects, at the core of all the probate system is a set of rules that tell the citizens who has to file a petition to open an estate, how to file, where to file, and what documents must be given to the court.

Normally, an estate is opened by the filing of a Petition with the Probate Court in the County in which the decedent lived. For example, if the decedent lived in Lake County, Indiana, then the Petitioner would file with the Lake Circuit Court, or one of the Superior Courts in Lake County. That Petition asks that the Court appoint a particular individual to the role of Personal Representative, or in some jurisdictions, the Executor (male) or Executrix (female). Notice of the Petition is given to the heirs as well as to known creditors. A filing fee is required.

If No Will, Who Can Serve as Personal Representative?

If there is a Last Will & Testament, that document will name the Personal Representative that the decedent wanted to serve. However, if there is no Will, then anyone can Petition to become the Personal Representative. Sometimes, there are competing Petitions where two or more persons wish to be the Personal Representative. The Court then has to hold a hearing after which it will determine who is to serve. The primary choice will be a close relative of the decedent. A son or daughter would be preferred over an aunt or uncle, or even a brother or sister. But, there are various factors that come into play so it is not always the closest relative who will be selected by the Court.

What are the assets?Once the Personal Representative is chosen, that individual will have the responsibility of collecting all of the assets of the decedent and making an inventory. Also, the Personal Representative will be need to go over all of the papers of the decedent to find bills, to do final taxes, locate bank accounts, insurance records, and determine exactly what the decedent owned at death. He or she will file a list of that inventory with the Court.

Also, the Personal Representative must make every reasonable effort to locate the heirs of the estate. Indiana, like every other state, has a statute that specifies the order of inheritance. For example, if a parent dies and there is no spouse, then if he or she had children, then those children are the sole heirs. If there are no children, then the Court will look at the statute and began a process of selecting those next in line to inherit.

One thing that absolutely must be done where someone dies without a Last Will & Testament is to open an estate, assuming there are assets. However, it may be possible to avoid opening an estate if the total assets are at the statutory minimum so as to qualify it as a “small estate,” after payment of funeral costs and other qualified bills. In such case, an affidavit may be sufficient. But, there are some circumstances where, even though the estate qualifies as a “small estate” under the statute, an estate should be opened. Sometimes, to protect the person handling the estate, he or she may want an estate opened. It can solve some problems that may arise and gives some closure that otherwise may be lacking. For example, if  the decedent had real estate, then it is usually a good idea to open an estate.

Bottom line: If you have a loved one who died without leaving a Last Will & Testament, definitely call a lawyer and get some advice as to how best to proceed.

 


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