Dear Mr. Azrael: My husband and I bought a house in...

MAILBAG

May 14, 2000

Dear Mr. Azrael:

My husband and I bought a house in mid-February. The house is in a new development where more homes are being built. Our house is about 1 1/2 years old, and we bought it from the original owners, who had it built. The back yard slopes down toward the house, and every time it rains, the back yard floods and retains water for well over 24 hours.

Several weeks ago, when we had a big rain here in Maryland, there was also a small amount of water in our basement, coming in through the concrete walls and below the basement door, damaging many of the boxes of "stuff" we haven't had a chance to unpack. The sellers had signed a disclosure statement, claiming there was no water problem and never any standing water in the yard for a 24-hour period.

We have had this problem every time it rains, so we know that statement could not be true. We do not know what our recourse is, if any. Do we go back to the sellers (if we can find them)? The sellers' agent? (We did not use a Realtor.) Or the builder? Are any of them liable for correcting the problem?

Lisa Flannery, Westminster

Dear Ms. Flannery:

Because your home is in a new development, the developer might be responsible for fixing the grading problem in your back yard.

I suggest you call the sediment control department in your county and request a site inspection. If the inspection reveals that the developer failed to grade your lot in accordance with county requirements, the sediment control officials might be able to require or convince the developer to correct the ponding problem.

You also might have legal rights against the former owners, based on their representation that they had no knowledge of water problems. You will have to prove, however, that the sellers knew that flooding or seepage occurred and made a false disclosure to you. You also will have to prove the cost of correcting the problem. Expert testimony on this issue might be necessary.

An attorney can advise you about the chances of success after he or she reviews the written disclosure and other contract documents signed by the sellers, and has discussed the case with a potential expert witness.

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