Get qualified pro to determine cause of cracks in walkway

MAILBAG

June 04, 2000

Dear Mr. Azrael:

I have an issue with ground erosion beneath the walkway of my townhouse, and it is severe.

I purchased a townhouse in November 1998, and the ground beneath the walkway has eroded severely and is threatening to collapse the concrete above. There are two cracks along the width of two of the steps, which I believe is from lack of support beneath them.[The builder] claims to have filled this in once, as is clearly stated as their only responsibility in various documents, but I question whether the work was ever done or done properly at least. The erosion is severe, and I cannot believe that the builder is not responsible for more than one repair for such a fundamental problem related to the ground that they chose to develop.

This is a structural support problem, not a nail pop. Could you please advise me as to any remedy that you might be aware of for this situation?

Is there any authoritative body that might at least investigate the situation and order the builder to properly correct it?

Ira M. Gilberg Reisterstown

Dear Mr. Gilberg:

You need to hire a qualified contractor or engineer to inspect the walkway and steps to provide a professional opinion on the cause of the cracks.

The expert should also be able to determine if the builder has properly corrected the problems you describe.

If there is structural damage or faulty workmanship, you very well may have legal rights against the builder.

A builder who constructs a new home can't limit the statutory warranty for defects that are noted within one year from settlement. Nor can the builder escape responsibility for a faulty repair.

Assuming an expert verifies that the cracks are serious and are caused by poor workmanship by the builder, you should then consult an attorney to bring the builder to justice.

A court is the "authoritative body" you're looking for.

Some homebuilders provide a private warranty, issued by an independent company. These warranty programs establish procedures to arbitrate disputes between homeowners and builders.

The arbitration usually includes an on-site inspection by an arbitrator familiar with construction techniques.

In the event your builder provided a private homeowner's warranty, you should pursue the rights described in your warranty booklet.

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