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Old 01-27-2009, 02:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, we're having some work done in our basement. It was supposed to be a fairly easy job to remove 1 moldy, mouse infested wall (we did the other 2 in the Fall) and make our basement finally warm.

Well.

It has now turned into a *huge* job after the contractor discovered major structural defects that the previous owners created. As in, they notched several floor joists leaving only 1 inch supporting the weight of our house. And that's not all that's wrong but I don't want to depress myself any further by writing it all out.

Lovely.

Our contractor has gone to talk to some structural engineers and to see if they will come and look at the house.

It looks like I'm going out to get a job after all.

Sigh.

Martha
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Old 01-27-2009, 03:05 PM
 
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OMG, that completely sucks.

I would really consider suing the previous owners for causing damage to the house.

Angela
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Old 01-27-2009, 03:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OMG, that completely sucks.

I would really consider suing the previous owners for causing damage to the house.
Sucks doesn't even begin to describe it.

I don't think we can sue considering we have lived in the house for 10 years.

Martha
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:37 PM
 
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I bet it's fixable. They'll probably be able to sister some new framing along the damaged parts. Just be glad you found it now, and not after a structural failure.
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The structural engineer is here and the first thing he did when he saw the basement was laugh. And not in a good way. Oh, this is so not good.

OMG I just heard the contrator say "thousands and thousands of dollars"

OMG OMG OMG

I'm going to cry.

Martha
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:43 PM
 
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Make sure you get a second (and third!) opinion. I don't trust contractors *at all*. We have had many years of several scam and try to scam us. Likely they are being honest, but don't just take their word for it.

Good luck!!
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Make sure you get a second (and third!) opinion. I don't trust contractors *at all*. We have had many years of several scam and try to scam us. Likely they are being honest, but don't just take their word for it.

Good luck!!
Yes, I agree, it's always good to get multiple opinions. We've been burnt in the past too.

This contractor is one I finally trust completely. He's been doing work for us for almost a year (our fence fell down last winter - thank you again previous owners and we've been exceptionally pleased with his work.

I figure if both he and the structural engineer are in agreement then we're pretty safe.

Obviously DH and I will consider our options before going ahead.

Thanks for the hug, I really needed it. This kind of thing *always* happens just when we think we're getting a bit ahead.

Sigh.

Martha
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Old 01-27-2009, 05:55 PM
 
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When did you buy your house? Depending upon what state you live in you may still have time to make a claim against the previous owner, one or both of the Seller's agents, or possibly your Buyer's agent (if there was one).

The time frame for the Statute of Limitations will vary depending upon whether you have a plain vanilla Breach of Contract claim or whether or not you can make an argument for Fraud. Note that in some states a Seller has an affirmative obligation to disclose any "material defects" (generally one affecting the price), that cannot be discovered by a visual inspection.

Actual Fraud would probably not apply unless they took active steps to hide something (perhaps cosmetically or with a deficient repair).

Oddly enough, claims against an inspector are usually pointless. Oftentimes your damages are capped at the cost of the inspection.

Also, check your paper work to see if you are covered by a Home Warranty. Sometimes these get "rolled in" with everything else so you wouldn't necessarily know that you have one.

I'm not trying to get your hopes up but you should at least look into it and perhaps go as far as a free initial consultation with an attorney. If you had an opportunity to inspect and you didn't do an inspection or your inspector did a bad job you may be "tough out of luck" unless your state has stronger consumer protections under these circumstances than most do.

Sometimes even if you don't have a strong claim you can get some sort of "nuisance value".

Also, if you there is any chance at all that you will attempt to make a claim start taking pictures now.

Partly to document the extent of the damage but also to possibly help establish that the Seller knew or should have known of the conditions that were hidden and that they arguably had a duty to disclose.

Good luck.

Oh, one more thing. If you have any inkling as to who might have done some of the work in question for the Seller, if you're feeling nervy you might give them a call and see if you can finesse some basic information out of them. You'd be surprised what people will tell you if you simply ask nicely. If you're feeling really, really, really nervy and know how to reach the Seller you might try giving them a call and casually asking for the name of the contractors that did any work since you are thinking of having some work done, and then going from there.

If there is any chance you can find out what was done: why the Seller wanted the work done, whether there were any restrictions the Seller placed on the repairs (e.g. price) that might have led to defective work, etc. that could be helpful. By itself it's not evidence but it could help you develop a theory of liability and increase your chances of finding an attorney willing to take your case on a contingency fee basis if they think there's a paper trail that would help establish your theory.

FWIW, I used to handle Professional Liability (Malpractice) claims for Realtors.

~Cath
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Old 01-27-2009, 06:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by kittynurse View Post
Sucks doesn't even begin to describe it.

I don't think we can sue considering we have lived in the house for 10 years.

Martha
kittynurse,
Ooops. I didn't notice this until just now. Run, do not walk to your paperwork to find out the exact date.

Then run, do not walk to the phone and place a call to the first attorney with expertise in this area that you can and ask what the longest statute of limitations for this sort of thing is. If you are very, very lucky you bought it 9.5 years ago and at least one of the statutes doesn't run until 10 years.

And sometimes these statutes are "tolled" (extended so to speak) by reasonable discovery rules. Any efforts by the Seller to conceal a problem would probably be the only one that would apply here.

Good luck.
~Cath
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Old 01-27-2009, 06:05 PM
 
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I agree with Cath.

I threatened to sue both our inspector and our previous owners - both knowingly lied. And both wrote us a check to avoid a lawsuit knowing they would be taken down.

I would really look into that.

I'm just really sorry.

Angela
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Old 01-27-2009, 06:32 PM
 
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One other option to consider... was the work done permitted? Obviously not, since no permit inspector would have allowed those structural defects. Depending on the state you're in, your homeowners title insurance that you purchased when you bought the house may cover this. This is not your fire/hazard insurance that you pay annually, this is the title insurance that was a one-time fee included in the closing costs when you bought the house.

I know of cases where the permit office catches unpermitted work and orders the new owners to rip it out - the homeowners title insurance will sometimes pay for it. You'll need to find the insurance policy you got when you bought the house and read it thoroughly to see if that would be possibly covered, then contact the insurance company. Not all companies, and not all states cover this kind of thing, but some do.

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Old 01-28-2009, 07:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by CathMac View Post
When did you buy your house? Depending upon what state you live in you may still have time to make a claim against the previous owner, one or both of the Seller's agents, or possibly your Buyer's agent (if there was one).
Our closing date was the day we got back from our honeymoon (supposed to be the day *after* we got back but we were delayed in Florida due to a hurricane) so I remember the day very well. Unfortunately it was 10 years this past summer.

I'm in Canada so I'm not sure if that makes a difference.

Quote:
The time frame for the Statute of Limitations will vary depending upon whether you have a plain vanilla Breach of Contract claim or whether or not you can make an argument for Fraud. Note that in some states a Seller has an affirmative obligation to disclose any "material defects" (generally one affecting the price), that cannot be discovered by a visual inspection.

Actual Fraud would probably not apply unless they took active steps to hide something (perhaps cosmetically or with a deficient repair).
I'm pretty positive there was no attempt at fraud. I think they were just completely clueless when it came to home renovation.

Quote:
Oddly enough, claims against an inspector are usually pointless. Oftentimes your damages are capped at the cost of the inspection.

Also, check your paper work to see if you are covered by a Home Warranty. Sometimes these get "rolled in" with everything else so you wouldn't necessarily know that you have one.
We definately do not have a Home Warranty. The house is almost 100 years old.

Quote:
I'm not trying to get your hopes up but you should at least look into it and perhaps go as far as a free initial consultation with an attorney. If you had an opportunity to inspect and you didn't do an inspection or your inspector did a bad job you may be "tough out of luck" unless your state has stronger consumer protections under these circumstances than most do.
I have mentioned it to a lawyer friend of mine to see if there is anything we can do. We did do an inspection. There is absolutely no way the inspector would have seen this unless he cut out large chunks of drywall.

Quote:
Sometimes even if you don't have a strong claim you can get some sort of "nuisance value".

Also, if you there is any chance at all that you will attempt to make a claim start taking pictures now.

Partly to document the extent of the damage but also to possibly help establish that the Seller knew or should have known of the conditions that were hidden and that they arguably had a duty to disclose.
Our contractor always takes multiple pictures of every job he does at every stage so we already have those on file. This is one of the reasons why we love him so much.

Quote:
Good luck.

Oh, one more thing. If you have any inkling as to who might have done some of the work in question for the Seller, if you're feeling nervy you might give them a call and see if you can finesse some basic information out of them. You'd be surprised what people will tell you if you simply ask nicely. If you're feeling really, really, really nervy and know how to reach the Seller you might try giving them a call and casually asking for the name of the contractors that did any work since you are thinking of having some work done, and then going from there.

If there is any chance you can find out what was done: why the Seller wanted the work done, whether there were any restrictions the Seller placed on the repairs (e.g. price) that might have led to defective work, etc. that could be helpful. By itself it's not evidence but it could help you develop a theory of liability and increase your chances of finding an attorney willing to take your case on a contingency fee basis if they think there's a paper trail that would help establish your theory.

FWIW, I used to handle Professional Liability (Malpractice) claims for Realtors.

~Cath
If I wanted to, I could contact the previous owners. They still live in the area and one of the neighbours is still friendly with them.

Unfortunately, I've discovered from the neighbours that the "contractor" on all of the work done on our house was the previous owner, his buddies and a case of beer. : I discovered that when the fence fell down last winter.
I'm pretty sure there wasn't even a permit and quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to open up that can of worms with City Hall. We're already dealing with them for the permit-less shed in our backyard. I'm going to figure out if I can investigate this without sending up any red flags at the city.

Thanks so much for the advice, you've given me some good things to think about.

Martha
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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kittynurse,
Ooops. I didn't notice this until just now. Run, do not walk to your paperwork to find out the exact date.

Then run, do not walk to the phone and place a call to the first attorney with expertise in this area that you can and ask what the longest statute of limitations for this sort of thing is. If you are very, very lucky you bought it 9.5 years ago and at least one of the statutes doesn't run until 10 years.

And sometimes these statutes are "tolled" (extended so to speak) by reasonable discovery rules. Any efforts by the Seller to conceal a problem would probably be the only one that would apply here.

Good luck.
~Cath
It's definately been 10 years. I feel so old all of a sudden
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree with Cath.

I threatened to sue both our inspector and our previous owners - both knowingly lied. And both wrote us a check to avoid a lawsuit knowing they would be taken down.

I would really look into that.

I'm just really sorry.
I'm pretty sure they didn't knowingly lie. I think they honestly felt they'd done a really good job.

ETA And they clearly didn't hire an architect because they way they did it, it's obvious they didn't have a clue how to fix a problem and they just made something up.
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Old 01-28-2009, 07:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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One other option to consider... was the work done permitted? Obviously not, since no permit inspector would have allowed those structural defects. Depending on the state you're in, your homeowners title insurance that you purchased when you bought the house may cover this. This is not your fire/hazard insurance that you pay annually, this is the title insurance that was a one-time fee included in the closing costs when you bought the house.

I know of cases where the permit office catches unpermitted work and orders the new owners to rip it out - the homeowners title insurance will sometimes pay for it. You'll need to find the insurance policy you got when you bought the house and read it thoroughly to see if that would be possibly covered, then contact the insurance company. Not all companies, and not all states cover this kind of thing, but some do.
I highly doubt this work was done permitted. If it was then we have a case for corruption at City Hall because they would have *had* to bribe the inspector. As I said in my other post, I really don't want to open this can of worms - the city already wants us to tear down our huge shed. But on the other hand, I really want to know what the h3ll went on.

I'm unfamiliar with title insurance, I'll have to look that up. I admit, I was a bit distracted when we bought the house because I was in the final stages of planning our wedding as well as living and working an hour away from here (DH lived in this town and handled a lot of the stuff). Plus, we had been searching for 6 months and were so happy to have found this place.

Despite all the problems we've had over the years we don't actually regret buying this house. We plan on being carried out of here in wooden boxes so the investment (even one this big) isn't wasted.

Martha
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:06 PM
 
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I would still want a second opinion. The structural engineer called in by the contractor is NOT a good second opinion. The fact that this guy has been working with you for a year is not a good thing - business is slow everywhere and he knows you're good for it and you trust him.

Sistering into beams is not too difficult and pretty common. They didn't use to use beefy beams where the should and many times plumbers and electricians sliced up all the beams when adding running water and lights to old buildings.
I don't wanna be a total stick in the mud, but I'm so suspicious of everything.

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Old 01-28-2009, 08:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I would still want a second opinion. The structural engineer called in by the contractor is NOT a good second opinion. The fact that this guy has been working with you for a year is not a good thing - business is slow everywhere and he knows you're good for it and you trust him.

Sistering into beams is not too difficult and pretty common. They didn't use to use beefy beams where the should and many times plumbers and electricians sliced up all the beams when adding running water and lights to old buildings.
I don't wanna be a total stick in the mud, but I'm so suspicious of everything.
You're right, I probably should get a second opinion. I should note though, that while the suggestion to call in a structural engineer came from the contractor, I was the one who found the engineer and as it turns out, we know the owner of the engineering firm through a local club. We live in a fairly small community. So I have full confidence that this is not some buddy of the contractor that is in on a scam to take us for all we have.

I agree, a year is not a super amount of time to know someone and trust them but we have hired *a lot* of contractors in our years here and this is the first one that I feel really confident about. I also grew up in the construction business so I do have some "insider knowledge" and I don't hesitate to let contractors know they aren't going to pull the wool over my eyes.

And I guess, technically, I do have a second opinion available to me because the other part of the job which deals with the foundation (I didn't mention that in my first post because it was too depressing) is related to what my Dad did for his whole life so I will naturally have him look over the plans and give an opinion.

I wish that sistering the beams was the only thing that needed to be done.

Martha
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The structural engineer is here and the first thing he did when he saw the basement was laugh. And not in a good way. Oh, this is so not good.

OMG I just heard the contrator say "thousands and thousands of dollars"

OMG OMG OMG

I'm going to cry.

Martha
Ok, this is kinda weird quoting myself but I just wanted to let everyone know that it turns out that the "thousands and thousands" I overheard was the contractor asking the engineer something like "if it's going to be thousands and thousands to do this, what should we look at as an alternative?" DH was in the basement participating in the whole discussion. So I felt a lot better about the whole thing. We have to wait for the engineer's report to get an official quote from the contractor but the ballpark figure he gave us was reasonable and within what we are able to pay. He's excellent about sticking pretty close to his ballpark figures.

ETA: that's totally weird that that smiley showed up at the top of this post but it's actually quite appropriate lol
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:43 PM
 
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Ah, it sounds like you are a tad suspicious yourself...and already on the right track. Sorry to jump off there.

I hope this works out well for you - there are sometimes silver linings.

We ripped out a wall b/c of a leak, and found a small finishing nail had run through a copper pipe. But we also found that garden hose had been used to make some of the connections there. We haven't replaced it yet, but we did reroute around it. Fortuitious, although bad news. We've also been able to ground things nicely as a side effect of doing other work.

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Old 01-28-2009, 08:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ah, it sounds like you are a tad suspicious yourself...and already on the right track. Sorry to jump off there.

I hope this works out well for you - there are sometimes silver linings.

We ripped out a wall b/c of a leak, and found a small finishing nail had run through a copper pipe. But we also found that garden hose had been used to make some of the connections there. We haven't replaced it yet, but we did reroute around it. Fortuitious, although bad news. We've also been able to ground things nicely as a side effect of doing other work.
Don't apologize, it's good to have other people reading and pointing out stuff I might have missed.

There are some silver linings (aside from the fact that we found the major structural defects and now have a chance to fix them before our house falls down). In taking down drywall, we found that there was ridiculous space wastage so we will be gaining some extra room. Plus, we discovered why it was always so freezing cold in the addition both upstairs and in the basement (I'm guessing it's not good to be able see the outside right? )

So, while it's sucky that this happened, I'm actually excited that our cold house problem will actually be fixed!!! Yay!

Funnily enough, it was a leak in the basement that started this whole thing. So I know how you feel! That blows about the nail but how bizarre about the garden hose!!! You just gotta wonder what goes through people's minds. I can't imagine the thought process that would come to the conclusion that garden hose was an appropriate thing to use for plumbing.

Ahh, the joys of home ownership.

Martha
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:59 PM
 
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Regarding title insurance, this gives you a good idea of what it may cover, if you have it:

http://www.firstcanadiantitle.com/en...erageFINAL.pdf

It would be something you purchased at the time you closed on the property.
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Old 01-28-2009, 09:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Regarding title insurance, this gives you a good idea of what it may cover, if you have it:

http://www.firstcanadiantitle.com/en...erageFINAL.pdf

It would be something you purchased at the time you closed on the property.
Thanks for that, that would have been perfect for this situation. Unfortunately, I just went and checked and we did not purchase this and it doesn't appear that it was offered. I double-checked with DH and he definately does not remember being offered that.

I did a little research and it looks like title insurance has only been around in Canada since 1991 so I think that it is possible that in 1998, when we purchased our house, it wasn't routinely offered.

Darn. That would have been the answer to our prayers. Oh well.

Martha
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