What can we do if we recently purchased our home and feel that the seller failed to disclose a water problem in the basement?

We purchased our home 6 months ago. Since then, we now get water in our basement every time it rains. There was never any mention of this in the sellers disclosure. When we initially visited the home and during the home inspection, a lot of the seller’s property was still in the basement and a lot of the lighting wasn’t properly functioning. I believe that is why the inspector failed to notice any water damage. In fact, I believe he noted the lack of lighting and stuff in his way on his report. We have been putting off doing anything about this because we just assumed it would be our responsibility. However, the more I think about, the more I feel like there is no way that this problem just started and the seller had to know.

Asked on July 26, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Your recourse would be to sue the seller for fraud: for 1) knowingly (he had to have known, or logically, under the circumstances, *must* have known about the problem) 2) misrepresenting (lying about) 3) a material (or important) fact with 4) the intention that you rely on the misrepresentation and 5) you did reasonably (i.e. you didn't ignore warning signs or contrary evidence) so rely. If you can prove your case, you could potentially recover the cost of remediating the problem, such as installing french drains. A failure to disclose a known problem, especially water infiltration, which sellers are supposed to disclose, can qualify as a misrepresentation.

Based on what you  write, the main hurdles will be showing that they knew or must have known (if they only used the basement for "long term" or junk storage, or for stuff they did not regularly use or check on, it's not impossible that they never noticed the water) and also that your reliance was reasonable (if the inspector noted poor lighting and too many objects in the way to really check out the basement, a court could possibly conclude that you should have gone back for another check or done something else to verify the state of  and issues in the basement). You may well be able to win, based on what you write, but winning should not be taken as a given.

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