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Dear PoPville: Help–sewage backup in basement–is the developer responsible?

by Prince Of Petworth June 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm 56 Comments

“Dear PoPville,

In late December we closed on our first home, a rowhouse in the Petworth area. One reason this property was attractive to us is because it was being completely renovated, and we very much liked the idea of an older home with new amenities. The other reason being that it has a separate legal (also newly renovated) English basement apartment that we estimated we could rent for $900-1000 to help with the mortgage.

Fast forward to the problems: It was a flip. We knew that, but we didn’t know just how poorly it was being flipped and that this company has a piss poor reputation. It’s not just fit and finish things that could be swapped out over time, there are major things that were done improperly (or not done at all). Yes, we had a home inspection and he caught several things that were worked out with the developer prior to closing, but we believe there are many more that he should have caught but didn’t.

Here’s where I hope to pick your readers brains for advice, suggestions, and recommendations on our current and biggest issue to date. There was an elder family member living in the basement apartment until about a month ago. We were uncertain as to whether she would be returning so had not proceeded to prep the apartment for renting. As of this past weekend, she has moved to a nursing home and we need to rent the space as soon as we can. But we can’t. There is now sewage backing up in the tub and from the drains at both the front and rear entries. The bathroom floor has been flooded and to top things off the new laminate floors the developer installed are ruined, even buckling in some places, so clearly water is underneath the entire floor, not just at water sources. And the place is obviously un-rentable.

My question is, do we have any recourse to sue them or get them to pay for damages? Or is it just our problem now? Our neighbor told us the house has always had sewage backup problems in the basement—if a neighbor knew, wouldn’t a developer? Can their company be held responsible for this?

If there is any legal action to pursue, can anyone recommend an attorney?

Are there any recommendations on who can fix the problem? And who can install a new floor?

The emergency cleanup crew came and removed the flooring, got the water/sewage out, and currently have fans/dryers down there. That was $5k. We paid $1k them (our insurance deductible) and $700 to the plumbers. Still waiting to hear what adjuster has to say after her visit today. The kitchen was spared, but the bedroom is now missing the first two feet of drywall from the bottom and a floor. The kitchen/living area will need a new floor. And the bathroom may be okay but not sure yet.

Any good contractors?

And any thoughts on installing tile instead of laminate?”

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