Is the previous owner of the house liable for basement water leakage from the foundation after closing?

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Is the previous owner of the house liable for basement water leakage from the foundation after closing?

The seller stated that he didn’t have basement water leakage problems for the 10 months he lived in the home. He said the house owner before him had experienced water leakage but the problem had been fixed when he installed longer downspouts. Our inspector stated that we should ask the seller again about water leakage because of the water stains on the basement floor. So, we asked the seller on the day of the closing if water leaks into the basement and he stated that it didn’t. We moved in 8 months ago. Then 8 days later, water leaked into the basement. Our realtor stated, that the seller was not liable because he stated the previous owner had water leakage. What we don’t understand is that the seller lied and stated he didn’t experience water leakage the whole ten months. Wouldn’t that be considered withholding information? The whole 6 months we have lived here we have had water leaking in, there is no way that he didn’t experience the water leakage. In the spring the water leakage reached its peak. The whole basement is wet. We had boxes in the opposite end of the basement were it had stayed dried and the water ended up reaching it. We have to squeegee the floor twice a day to keep the floor from having puddles all over. The lower level constantly smells bad due to the constant water leakage. Do we have a case to bring up to the seller?

Asked on May 4, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Failing to disclose a known and material problem, either through misrepresentation and/or concealment, is fraud (so long as the problem was readily apparent to a reasonable person. Further, fraud provides a basis to recover monetary compensation for the cost to correct/remediate the problem, plus any damage that it caused. You may therefore have recourse if you can prove that the seller knew of the problem, or should have known of it, but failed to disclose it to you. And based on the facts presented you appear to have a valid claim. At this point, you should get an estimate for the cost to correct the problem. Then consult directly with a local real estate attorney who can best advise you further after going over all of the details of your situation.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Based on what you write, you appear to have a case.   It seems inconceivable that, with the facts you describe, the seller did not know of the leakage; if he knew but failed to disclose it (a material, or important, issue) to get you to buy the home, he likely committed fraud; and fraud can provide a basis to recover monetary compensation, such as the cost to remediate the situation (e.g. french drains, water proofing, more sump pumps, etc.). You should consult with an attorney about the situation, to see what your case might be worth and what it might cost to pursue.


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