High Winds, +3″ Rain in Twin Cities Last Night

[Note to Readers: The views expressed here are solely those of Ross Kaplan, and do not represent Edina Realty, Berkshire Hathaway, or any other entity referenced. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.]

A LOT of recent Twin Cities home buyers will be asking whether their Seller is liable for their suddenly wet basement in the wake of last night’s deluge (as much as 6″ of water in some of the west and south “burbs).

Many basements that never had water, now do; others that previously had water . . . now have a lot more.

So, who’s responsible?

Legal Analysis

If you substitute “Summer” for “Winter” and “wet basement” for “ice dam,” the analysis is exactly the same as laid out in my post, “Seller Liability for Ice Dams.”

A quick recap:

To recover from their Seller, the Buyer must satisfy a two-part test:

One. Establish that the problem existed before the Buyer purchased the home; and

Two. Show that the Seller knew or should have known about the problem.

Buyers’ Star Witness

Practically, how do Buyers satisfy those tests?

The neighbors.

More than one arbitration action has been abruptly settled ” on terms very favorable to the Buyer ” when the new homeowner found one or more neighbors willing to testify about their (former) neighbors’ basement.

The damning testimony usually goes something like this:

“Water in the Petersons’ basement?

Hell, every time it sprinkled, all the neighborhood kids would inflate their life rafts and have pool parties down there!”

The (More) Usual Case:  Telltale Signs ” and Lots of ’em

Of course, the vast majority of the time, basements with chronic water issues announce themselves well before Buyers have moved in or even made an offer.

So, there’s a strong mildew or mold smell; the concrete block is stained or shows multiple signs of efflorescence (a white, chalky condition associated with repeated water saturation and drying out); the gutters are overflowing (or non-existent); the yard strongly slopes toward the home instead of away (grade issue); the owner has four dehumidifiers running, etc.

You get the idea . . . .

Bonus question: What’s the one instance when the Seller sold a home with a wet basement, yet the Buyer has no recourse?

When the Seller explicitly disclosed that fact (and presumably, discounted their asking price accordingly), and got their Buyer’s acknowledgement on the Seller Disclosure.

P.S.: It was also a rough night on local pets: the hours-long thunder and lightning had our golden retriever under the bed, shaking.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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