Can Homeowners Sue Homebuilders for Foundation Problems?

If a homeowner’s new construction home is showing moisture-related issues in the basement, it’s a costly mistake to repair. Naturally, it’ll lead back to the builder as the owners will want some form of remediation or coverage.

But can homeowners sue a homebuilder for foundation problems? Is the builder responsible for mold and other moisture-related issues?

basement water damage

The answer to this question is easy – yes, they can sue a builder for negligence. Architects, contractors and builders can also be sued for the bad workmanship. In a real estate law question-and-answer session, Criminal Defense Attorney, David Alan Zipp, explains that consumers are well within their rights to sue a builder for negligence to force repairs, whether a building is under warranty or not.

The best way for builders, architects and other construction industry professionals to avoid being sued for foundation problems is impeccable planning and building with first-class below-grade moisture barriers.

Bear in mind that a basement doesn’t have to flood for a buyer to sue. Musty, moldy and always-damp basements can be irritating enough to sue the homebuilder for foundation problems.

Common reasons homeowners sue a builder for negligence

Evidence of basement moisture issues include foundation cracks, and discolored and swollen basement walls.

Some common causes of these issues can include:

  • A lack of proper moisture barriers
  • Trapped air conditioning and heating condensation
  • Basements with laundry facilities are especially prone to moisture damage

To ensure new construction homes are adequately protected against moisture, leading designers and building teams trust foundation drainage products and wall waterproofing membranes from Dörken Systems Inc.

Who else might be responsible for bad workmanship?

Homebuilders are not the only ones who can be held liable for wet basements. Any contractor who works on a new construction project can be sued over moisture in basements. So can the building inspector, and so can the attorney who facilitated contract closing. Civil action may be brought against defendants for poor design, poor workmanship and shoddy materials, but those are not the only reasons a home builder may be sued. Non-Disclosure and misrepresentation are also serious breaches in the eyes of the law.

Even if an unhappy buyer does not file a formal lawsuit against a home builder, contractor or architect, they can still seek legal redress by way of mediation and small claims court. If you don’t think those smaller actions can cost a bundle, think again.

water damage and mold in a basement

In some cases, a buyer can tap into their homeowner’s insurance to mitigate water damages. In most cases, they will not do so, if filing a claim will lead to an increase of their rates. If and when a buyer is displeased with a wet basement, and they believe they can sue the builder for negligence, they will.

Basement moisture issues may escalate into environmental claims, especially if an occupant suffers damages because of standing water, mold or mildew. Protect yourself before the fact by always designing and building with quality moisture barrier systems.

As an architect or builder, it is not only right that you design and build with care – it’s also in your own best interest.

In the American Bar Association publication “Environmental Aspects of Real Estate Transactions,” author James Witkin explains that many unhappy building buyers carry insurance policies with severely restricted mold coverage. Some insurance policies now disallow mold claims completely. When faced with a situation such as this, a disgruntled buyer will sue anyone they can – including the architect, contractor or home builder.

Protecting your work, and your reputation

Protect yourself and your reputation by designing right in the first place. Always specify high-performance moisture barrier products for your projects. You could save yourself thousands of dollars that might otherwise go to pay for lawsuits related to foundation problems.

mold growth and moisture in a basement

Be sure you’re familiar with these 4 tips for homebuilders handling mold claims and lawsuits. And if you’d like to get ahead and protect your business, contact us to discuss the many ways DELTA® foundation protection systems can save your money and your reputation.