The House Detective: Leaky basement wasn't disclosed

Sellers in most states are required to disclose all known property defects to buyers. Masking a moisture problem with fresh paint is therefore a violation of that requirement. You should notify them of your discovery immediately and request that they pay the cost of remediation.
By Barry Stone, Certified Building Inspector Published: April 26, 2014
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DEAR BARRY: We bought our home about a year ago, and no one disclosed the water seepage in the basement. The concrete walls were freshly painted when we were in escrow, but now the paint has bubbled, and there appears to be some kind of white, powdery mold. We hired a contractor who specializes in waterproofing, and he said the waterproof membrane on the outside of the foundation walls had failed. The sellers never said a word about this in their disclosure statement. What do you think about the lack of disclosure, and how can we fix this problem?

— Gary

DEAR GARY: Leaky basement walls are common, usually due to faulty ground drainage and inadequate waterproofing of the foundation walls. Unfortunately, correction can be costly and intrusive because the excavation of the exterior is necessary to waterproof the foundation walls. The white, powdery substance, however, is probably not mold. What you describe is probably efflorescence, mineral salts that form on concrete and masonry walls where there is slow groundwater seepage.

Sellers in most states are required to disclose all known property defects to buyers. Masking a moisture problem with fresh paint is therefore a violation of that requirement. You should notify them of your discovery immediately and request that they pay the cost of remediation. Hopefully they will be willing to cooperate. If you had a home inspection when you were in escrow, your inspector may have been unable to identify the problem because of the fresh paint. Hopefully, the costs for drainage remediation will not be excessive. To evaluate the ground drainage conditions around your home and determine what is needed to correct the problem, a licensed geotechnical engineer should be consulted.

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