Your Place: What recourse for rain damage in basement?

June 26, 2014 

QUESTION: My son and daughter-in-law purchased a twin ranch home with a finished basement in September.

Recent heavy rains invaded their home and caused a great deal of damage to the back wall in both the basement and the bedroom above. They called an adjuster, who cut out the damaged walls and removed carpet, and brought in fans and a dehumidifier.

All materials were saved for the insurance company to see. The adjuster said he would file the insurance claim, and that potential causes of the water intrusion could be the bedroom window and the back patio.

My concerns also include damage lurking behind the remaining walls that we cannot see, and present and future mold issues.

How should the cause of this water problem be investigated? Do they have any recourse from the home-inspection company they used, at least for their insurance deductible? Do they have any recourse from the previous owner’s seller’s disclosure?

To me, it seems something was missed somewhere, and they are left with a very expensive problem, as well as being heartbroken. What can they do?

ANSWER: Until you have incontrovertible proof the problem was caused by the previous owner’s remodeling, I wouldn’t start pointing fingers. The winter was very hard, and a 5-inch rainfall over 12 hours can introduce problems where there were none.

The prior owner might not have had a clue. And a home inspector can report only on what he or she sees, and won’t recommend that you hire an expert to look behind walls unless there is evidence that you should.

Mold is an issue that needs to be addressed. Your kinfolk need a certified mold-inspection firm to investigate.

If there is mold and evidence shows it is a longstanding problem, the inspector should be able to determine the source of the water intrusion. If there is a longstanding problem that was not disclosed, a lawyer is the next step.

Contact Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101.

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