Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Do You Really Need Me?

This might sound like the worst elevator speech ever, but please bear with me.  Many new homeowners call me about their leaky basements.  In some cases, it is not in their best interests to file a civil lawsuit against their sellers.

I met with such a prospective client this afternoon.  He purchased a $600,000 home in God's Country last spring and has since discovered that one basement wall leaks.  His children's playroom has gotten wet.  Someone who buys such a nice home on such a nice lot deserves better.  His sellers disclosed nothing, and I find it hard to believe that the basement didn't leak during their 8 years of ownership.

He received two estimates from reputable WAFRP member contractors, one of whom referred him to me.  They recommended replacing the inside drain tile in the affected area and adding a sump crock for around $2,000.

My firm represents defrauded homeowners on a contingency fee basis, which means that we get paid a percentage of the amount recovered.  Other firms charge an hourly rate ranging from $200-$500 per hour.  If the problems with your home can be repaired for less than $10,000, it's probably not in your best interests to file a civil lawsuit.

This gentleman might need my services down the line.  Perhaps his sellers will agree to pay for the repairs but ask him to sign a release.  I can make sure that he's protected in case additional basement repairs are needed or defects are discovered in other areas of his home in the future.  Perhaps his sellers will ignore his calls.  I can write his sellers a Golke letter so that he can proceed with repairs without jeopardizing his future case.

If you've purchased a new home with a leaky basement, this is what you need to do:
  • Take photographs and videos of the water;
  • Document and preserve all water-damaged property, especially drywall, studwall, carpeting, and tack strips;
  • Contact your real estate agent;
  • Contact an independent foundation consultant, such as Chuck Weber or Mike Shadid; and
  • Obtain estimates from reputable contractors based upon the independent foundation consultant's recommendations. 
Sometimes, homeowners can solve their leaky basement problems simply by making exterior, above-grade improvements, such as building up the grade or extending the downspouts.  Unfortunately, these relatively inexpensive improvements don't always work and the homeowner is forced to consider drain tile replacement, waterproofing, and other expensive foundation repairs.  In short, you might need my services in the future even if you don't need them right now.