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Question DetailsAsked on 12/26/2016

My basement floor is heaving I have only been in my home for 17 m. who is responsible?

Previous owners glued carpet after filling cracks. also sheetrocked that side of basement, lied about termite treatment on disclosure. i found a treatment tube about 4-5 feet from exterior wall while building my fence.

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2 Answers


Since this is not a new home,any recourse against the builder or designer is very unlikely, even if one could show poor design or construction - usually 1-5 years is the limit for that (generally 1 year unless state law requires longer period), and commonly that extends only to the original purchaser.

So - that leaves previous owners potentially in the liability target sight, and only if they failed to disclose known defects, to the extent disclosure is required by law in your area or to the extent they falsified any disclosure they did make - which of course you would have to prove.

If there were structurally significant cracking in the floor (say over 1/4-1/2" wide crack opening or vertically offset more than a fraction of that across the crack) and they covered it up and failed to disclose it, that could be a basis for claim - though if there were multiple owners you would have to prove the immediately previous owners did it, not a prior owner. Just hairline shrinkage or settlement cracking would NOT normally be considered disclosable. Also, you would have to show that the previous owners realized, knew, or believed that the cracking was significant and disclosable, not just normal shrinkage or settlement cracking like is common in slabs like that.

Sheetrocking the basement wall - unless you say there is significant structural cracking or leakage there that was also hidden (in which case same answer as above) no issue with that. You might be able to look on the outside of the foundation and see if there is significant cracking - if the ground is actually heaving under your basement slab and lifting the foundation wall significantly too, there should be crack(s), larger toward top, in the top of the foundation wall.

Finding termite stakes in the yard is first of all not proof of termite issues - could have just been preventative or investigative (if wood "detection" stakes rather than poison bait stakes - especially if found 4-5 feet out from the wall rather than within 3 feet. Even if it were proof of a remedial rather than preventative treatment, you would likely have to show that all the followign are true: a) they had the treatment done (not a previous homeowner), b) the treatment did not cure the infestation they were treating for, c) they knew of an active infestation or existing termite damage in the house which they knew of and failed to disclose as required by law, and d) depending on details, that they believed the infestation or damage to be "significant" rather than superficial.

You could talk to your realtor on the deal - but from what you listed I would rank the strength of your case at maybe 1-2 on a scale of 0 (not a prayer of winning) to 10 (hit the lottery with a slam-dunk case), or maybe as high as 4-5 IF you can show failure to disclose cracking or termite issue they should have disclosed. To get up into the really strong case (7+) you would have to be able to demonstrate, by their own admission or evidence from things they said to other people, that they knew about the situation, believed it to be significant, AND intentionally failed to disclose it. Remember, you have to be able to PROVE that they personally knew about the issue, that it is a significant and disclosable defect, AND that they failed to disclose the situation to you. Or (in many states) you have to prove that they knowingly or intentionally failed to include it on the disclosure form, not just forget about it or did not consider it significant - a mighty high standard to meet.

I would say if that is the worst you have found in 17 months, count your blessings - I have worked with homeowners in new purchases (and new builds) with part or all of their house sliding away down the slope, foundation heaving or settling several feet, house dropping away into a sinkhole, house sitting in the runout zone of a rockslide or avalanche run, house burned down because the furnace exhaust ducting was never completed - even one built about 25 feet below the maximum water level on a lakefront which they found out about the next spring during heavy breakup runoff when the lake staged up. I would say your situation is minimal, from your description.

You did not say how MUCH the floor has heaved - a civil engineer or better a geotechnical engineer (soils and foundations) could best assess why, but since you said nothing about water inflow I would doubt due to high groundwater pressure, so if you are in a heaving clay soil area your first cure would be to minimize (consistent with any shrinking/swelling soil moisture maintenance requirement) surface/roof runoff water access to the foundation by installing/fixing gutter/downspouts and surface sloping and compaction leading water away from the foundation. And if your house has a foundation weepage system to maintain the soil moisture level to prevent major shrinkage cracking, find out how much water it is supposed to be putting in the ground and whether this is a seasonal or year-around need, and check that it is not dumping concentrations of water in one place due to a leaky joint or cracking or such. Ditto to checking any irrigation/sprinkler system for leaking water near the foundation, as those are common causes of basement slab heaving in clay areas.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



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