Home improvements can create an unintended consequence

Reader Question: I blacktopped my driveway and turnaround area to my garage. My house was for sale, and several people objected to the gravel drive. The house went under contract as soon as the work was completed. It looked great, and the buyers loved it. No issues. A month after closing the new owners contacted me saying the garage was getting water into it due to poor drainage. They want me to pay to fix it. They believe I lied on the disclosure form about water intrusion. I never had a water issue in the nine years I lived there. Thus I answered the questions honestly. I suspect it is the grade of the driveway and the now impervious surface. I never considered rain. This is an unintended consequence. Am I responsible for the fix?

Monty’s Answer: It sounds like your diagnosis is accurate. Before the closing, but after the blacktop installation, did it rain? Every state has different laws and administrative rules. In some states, the seller has a responsibility to report changes in the home’s condition up until the time of closing. This update is not a requirement in every state. In my opinion, many buyers, sellers, and real estate agents are not aware of all the nuances in real estate law.

You have three choices

  1. Fix the problem – You caused it (maybe your contractor has some responsibility here).
  2. Negotiate – I could argue the buyer (or the buyer’s inspector) should have caught it.
  3. Tell them, “no.” – Consider asking an attorney in your state to review the documents and render an opinion before taking this approach.

There are many variables not mentioned in your email. If they were easy to deal with, and you were happy with the financial outcome is that worth considering? If we reversed the situation, how would you feel?

In any event, based on your email, they can install a french drain themselves, or you can pitch in and help. This solution is far less expensive than tearing out the blacktop, regrading the slope, and re-blacktopping the driveway. Without seeing the situation, the french drain may be the best solution, and french drains are readily available. Alternatively, a local junkyard may have one or be able to weld one up.

Seek expert opinions

I am not endorsing any particular solution, just suggesting different contractors will have different ideas and different prices.

Your situation is not all that unusual. There are many areas when homeowners are seeking to improve their property, and the improvement creates a new problem. Sizing a new furnace, replacing built-in appliances, updating electrical systems, re-sizing rooms, and landscaping, are just a few examples of where there can be unintended consequences. One possibility of minimizing the chances of an unintended consequence is first speaking with people who perform these task for a living. Here are some tips about how to find them at https://build.dearmonty.com//tips-for-selecting-a-builder/