When Can You Sue Your Home Builder For A Foundation Defect?

If you've recently purchased a newly-constructed home, you've probably been looking forward to minimal maintenance for the next decade or two while your neighbors with older homes spend thousands to replace their roof, windows, or heating and cooling systems. However, in some situations, you could find yourself dealing with a construction defect -- namely, a cracked or leaking foundation that allows water to flow into your basement or even causes your floors to settle unevenly. Fixing this foundation cracking will likely become your largest priority as a new homeowner, but paying for these repairs out of your own pocket may leave you feeling burned. What are your legal options if you believe your contractor didn't pour your foundation properly? Read on to learn more about your legal and financial options when it comes to repairing a leaking foundation.

What are your legal options if you suspect your foundation problems are due to a construction defect? 

Your first step when dealing with a foundation that leaks groundwater into your basement should be to begin documenting the issues you've noticed through photos and written notes. Whether you settle this issue privately with the contractor or take it to a civil jury trial, the more visual and verbal evidence you have of defects in your foundation (and the effects these defects have on your basement), the stronger your case will be.

You'll then want to contact the contractor or company responsible for pouring your home's foundation to discuss your options. In some situations, the mere threat of a lawsuit is enough to persuade the contractor to fix your foundation (and any other problems directly resulting from a cracked or leaky foundation) free of charge. In other cases, you may not be satisfied with the thought of the same company performing this work, or may be unable to secure cooperation from your contractor through informal negotiations. At this time, you'll want to consult an attorney (like those at Bayer Jerger & Underwood) to evaluate whether you can recover a civil judgment against your contractor to help pay for the repairs your home needs.

What should you do to repair your foundation while litigation is pending?

Although a lawsuit may help make you financially whole again once a settlement is reached or a judgment is ordered, until this time, you do have some responsibility for damage mitigation -- your duty to prevent further damage to your home as best you can. If you make no attempt to repair your foundation once you notice an issue and your home suffers significant damage, the contractor may argue that you were at least partially responsible for this damage due to negligence.

This often means you'll need to pay for repairs yourself as soon as they can be scheduled, then recover these damages from the original contractor during the judgment phase of your trial. (While a particularly strong legal case and promise of judgment may entice some contractors to take your case on a contingency basis or extend credit until the case is closed, finding such a contractor can be a challenge.)

Fortunately, simply patching the surface cracks that allow the most water to flow into your basement and installing a sump pump to regularly remove standing water should go a long way toward preventing further foundation damage and shouldn't be out of reach for most homeowners' budgets. Choosing to have cracks professionally filled may cost a minimum of $500 per crack, including labor expenses. A sump pump will add another $100 to $200 to this total, but a pump at this price point can keep your basement empty of water even during a major flood. Even if you feel fairly confident you can patch these cracks yourself, it's often a good idea to enlist a well-reviewed contractor so that you can have a clear record of the quality of work performed and can rebut any claims that your own work was insufficient.