Yard Grades Not To Par

I am getting ready to close on a new home. I have been arguing with the builder regarding the slopes of the back yard. Over a span of approximately 23 feet the yard drops in grade 6 feet plus. No where on the signed off on site plans does it indicate that the grade change will be this drastic. In my opinion the yard is essentially not usable as we can not place my daughters playset in the backyard in a way in which it will be properly level on the ground. We chose the lot based upon the location and with the understanding that all the lots in the vicinity are slopped at a respectable grade. The builders on site foreman informed me that he would estimate the cost to fix the slope at approximately $10,000, which I do not feel should be my responsibility. Do I have the right to monetary compensation to cover this cost to fix since the builder has given me a property that is not as expected or in my mind agreed upon?

Asked on June 21, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Your expectations or what was "in [your] mind agreed upon" is not actually relevant; all that is relevant are:
1) What is in the plans or some other writing which is part of, or is referenced by or incorporated into, the written purchase agreement--if they are violating the site plans which you signed off on, you could potentailly sue them them breach of contract for the remediation costs. You'd have to prove in court that the fact that the plans do not mention this degree of grade is actually a violation of what was in the plan: i.e. the fact that it was not in the plan does not by itself equal a breach, since such plans (or agreements, contracts, etc. generally do not mention every fact or facet), but rather you'd have to show that plans are affirmatively showing what degree of grade there would be--and this exceeds it.
2) If the degree of grade violates some local building code: they are obligated to turn property over to you that is legal and compliant.
So if you can show a breach of a written agreement or a written addendum or exhibit to the agreement (like the plans) or a breach of law/ordinance, you would have a viable claim for compensation--though even in that case, bear in mind that if they don't voluntarily pay, you'd have to sue for the money.


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