Failure to disclose - Can I sue? (LONG) - Posted by Jeff M

Posted by Jeff M on August 06, 2004 at 13:46:08:

Thanks for the support guys. Its good to know that others don’t think I’m in the wrong here.

My wife contacted our realtor that sold us the house, and he gave us a few attorneys to talk to. However, my uncle is a lawyer, so I contacted him first to get his advice. He basically sympathized with us and said we should act on it. He does taxes and estates, but he referred me to another lawyer who deals with cases like this. I just called him about ten minutes ago, and should expect to hear back from him later today. I’ve never sued anyone before, but everyone in this neighborhood seems to agree that the previous owners were some real @%#@%ing $!#%$#& for brains *%#!heads. So they weren’t surprised to hear about the seller’s little cover-up job that they did on the basement. I have little doubt that I could get my neighbor and her boyfriend to sign an affidavit for me. We get along with them very well.

I’ll let you folks know what happens. Like I said, I’ve never sued anyone, so I’m affraid of what a lawyer would cost and all that jazz. Then again, I’m more worried about having a leaky basement, knowing that someone covered it up to preserve their property value. I can’t pass that on to the next buyer when I sell. I just don’t have it in me to lie about something that major.

Take care everyone. I’m going 4-wheeling tomorrow to blow off some steam.

Jeff

Failure to disclose - Can I sue? (LONG) - Posted by Jeff M

Posted by Jeff M on August 06, 2004 at 10:13:26:

My wife and I bought our first house back in April and as luck would have it, every time it rained, we got water in our basement. At first we thought that our driveway was clogging up and it was all coming in through the garage, but as it turns out, its coming from behind a newly “finished” wall in the basement. The previous owner “finished” the basement right before they put the house up for sale.

Everything was white in the “finished” part of the basement. It was supposed to be my “guy area.” I had plans on painting the walls and redoing the floor. After we got water in the basement, I had the perfect reason to remodel. The water damaged a lot of the tile, and not to mention it smelled bad. I did almost all the work myself. I pulled up tile, bleached the floor, and primed it. I primed and painted the walls a nice tan color, and when the walls were done, I laid down new tile. After sealing the walls at the base with caulk, my father-in-law and myself were putting on new baseboard, when he noticed water underneath the tile from the previous night’s rain. Water was still coming in from the wall. So we did what we knew we had to do. After all the work, priming, painting, and sealing, we took a hammer to the wall and pulled the whole thing down. Not only was the drywall new, but the 2x4 framing was so shiny and new you could still read the stamping on it.

Our neighbor said that her house had the same problem, and that, in fact, she knew our house leaked. The previous owner not only told my neighbor about the problem, but she also showed my neighbor’s boyfriend where our basement was cracked and where water came in from. To solve the problem, they didn’t bother to seal off the wall, they just hung some drywall in front of it, instead. My neighbor not only told me that the previous owners knew about the problem, but told my neighbor that they weren’t going to disclose it because it would lower the value of the house. I asked her when they “finished” that side of the basement, and she said it was back in February - a month before we bought it. Its obvious that they hung the wall to hide the foundation leaks and cracks.

I looked over the disclosure once again. Sure enough, our disclosure form said that they only saw water in the basement three times in six years. I saw it every friggin’ time it rained. I was aware of that part, but this seemed to be an obvious dereliction of noticing foundation problems. I thought that I may not have a case since the technically disclosed some water intrusion. But the paragraph below that asks if they knew about any structural cracking, or shifting in the foundation to which they replied, “NO.”

So my question is, can I sue over the fact that they did know about the cracks and decided not to disclose? I have new neighbors, whom I get along with very well, who said that the previous homeowners not only knew about it, but intentionally refused to disclose it. Now I’m stuck with a house that I never would have bought had I known about the structural problems. Even worse, I have to have it fixed or else I’m going to get screwed when I try to sell the house years from now because it will negatively effect my price when I disclose it. I’m an honest guy. I’m not going to lie about it. I just got burned because someone else chose to lie.

I’m checking out my REIA listings for a good real estate attorney. I’m willing to take this to court.

Your opinions are much appreciated,
Jeff (OH)

Re: Failure to disclose - Can I sue? (LONG) - Posted by Ryan_NH

Posted by Ryan_NH on August 07, 2004 at 15:26:51:

I would definitely try to get face to face with the seller or find out where they live and see if you can deal with this person before going to a lawyer. The crack in the foundation, framing, drywall, and basement waterproofing can probably be done for 3-5k. If you sue these people, you’ll incur some type of retainer fee and most likely get a judgement in your favor. Who knows if it will be the actual amount it costs you to fix it? Who knows if you’ll ever be able to collect? Maybe they don’t care about their credit score either.

I know in NH for claims under 5k you can go to small claims court and not even need a lawyer. See if you can talk to the seller about the problem and depending on his response or demeanor you can use the threat of a lawsuit and large judgement to persuade him to reimburse you for some of the damage and waterproofing. Good luck!

Suing someone has a purpose - Posted by Farlee

Posted by Farlee on August 06, 2004 at 14:04:25:

Yes - I’m an attorney. Now that’s out of the way.

Yes - suing someone can be expensive. Generally, if you can sue someone for actual damages (the $$ the problem actually costs), punitive damages for many intentional/fraudulent acts (punishment $$ for being an idiot) and often the court costs and attorney fees of the plaintiff will be borne by the defendant if he/she loses.

The possibility of being sued keeps a lot of business dealings honest and open. Lawsuits are not a bad thing. It is important to distinguish between the “frivolous” lawsuits and legitimate ones. If someone lies to you, defrauds you, and intentionally harms you and rips you off, why would you be adverse to suing the person?

This person needs to be sued, and you need to get some money for your trouble. You can get on with your life and let an attorney deal with this idiot. Why waste any more of your time?

Re: Failure to disclose - Can I sue? (LONG) - Posted by rdlazo

Posted by rdlazo on August 06, 2004 at 13:25:26:

Jeff
Don’t hurry to the lawyers office yet, expensive unless he is your son or brother. Don’t spend lawyers money right away if the sellers, and brokers(buyers and sellers) can fix your problem.

  1. Will your good neighbors sign to the effect that they really know the prob. and did not disclose?

  2. talk to your agent about the problem. Tell him ,her
    there is potential lawsuit problem here because of these house condition problem that were not disclosed and that they have to fix these who ever it is responsible or see you in court. See you in court line will be too hard use it later. You are considering talking to your lawyer is milder. Tell them you want an answer fast.
    I bet you they will move right away.
    Can you post or email me what happen.
    rdla

I would sue - Posted by ken in sc

Posted by ken in sc on August 06, 2004 at 13:17:39:

Almost every state has disclosure laws against just this type of thing. Check your contract of sale - it may have a clause that says you have to go to mediation before court (our Board of Realtors standard contract says that). Get some estimates or have the work done so you will know the extent of the damage caused to you.

Go get them. That is just bad and they should pay. And I am not one who typically votes for a lawsuit.