Basement Flooded: Now What?

Legal Article

Basement Flooded: Now What?

Basement floodings are all-too-common occurrences in the Washington, DC Metro Area and can leave new homeowners scrambling for solutions. There are many causes for basement flooding, from burst pipes, to backed up sewer systems, to structural issues with the building. While the physical cleanup process is typically a long and arduous process, this guide intends to inform the reader of the legal and financial recourses available to homeowners to restore their home to pre-flood value.

This guide is structured in two parts. Part A is designed to provide information about the options of the homeowner embattled with a basement flood, and Part B sets out our Basement Flood: Best Practices Model, perfect for storage and accompaniment with other important real property documents, such as your deed, homeowner’s insurance, and builder’s insurance policies.

Information and Options

Describing a basement flood as a “problem” would be a drastic understatement. Basement floods can require remodelings and reconstructions of plumbing systems, electrical systems, and even structural integrity, and can cost upwards of $25,000 in restoration. Basement floods are scary things, and this guide is designed to provide answers when homeowners are inundated with questions.

The first step in basement flooding preparation is to know and understand the terms of your insurance policies. If you are a new homeowner, or if the property in question is relatively young, you are likely to be in possession of a Builders’ Warranty, which sets out the various situations and happenstances that are covered by the builder of the property. If at a later date, the cause of the flood is independently determined to be

Who is Responsible?

The basement of your newly-purchased home is now flooded. While rummaging through your safely-kept documents for insurance policies and warranties is certainly the first non-cleanup step a homeowner should take,

Construction & Design Defects

In considering potential claims to bring against the seller, builder, or insurance company, among the first is the Construction Defect. A construction defect typically comes in two varieties: the patent defect, or the latent defect. A patent defect is a defect in the building that could have been found by reasonable means at the time of the transaction. A latent defect is a defect in the building that could not have been found, or would not have appeared, at the time of the transaction. Examples of patent defects can range from aesthetic deterioration to obvious plumbing issues, and everything in between. Latent defects are, by definition, more difficult to detect. Latent defects often appear as a result of faulty foundation causing a structural compromise, or other defects that would require a significantly higher degree of inspection.

A latent defect is one which could not be discovered using ordinary and reasonable care in inspection. It is a hidden or dormant defect in a product, premises, or title to real property that cannot be discovered by observation or a reasonably careful inspection.

Buying a new house can be a difficult and stressful process. Most older homes have at least a few items that need to be fixed or upgraded, such as old wiring or plumbing. It is a good practice for a home buyer to know the age of certain features, including the roof and septic tank (if applicable), since they eventually will need to be replaced. In the District of Columbia, the seller is responsible for disclosing any significant defects in the home using the seller’s disclosure statement which is an addendum to the GCAAR contract. Some defects are clear and will be readily disclosed. But what do you do if you discover a defect in your new house after going to closing? In the District of Columbia, you may have some options

District of Columbia laws regarding seller’s disclosures requires the seller to disclose all “material defects” in a property to the buyer for the sale to be valid. If a home buyer discovers a material defect that the seller failed to disclose before the close of the sale, the law may give them the right to cancel the transaction or seek monetary damages.

A material defect is “a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people.” This does not necessarily include systems or components that are at or beyond the end of their normal useful life. For instance, a furnace that works fine but was expected to break down years ago is not considered defective.W

Antonoplos & Associates’ Residential Real Estate Litigation Practice represents first time home buyers, home owners, real estate investors, real estate developers, homebuilders, contractors, architects, engineers, subcontractors, in matters involving Real Estate Litigation. Antonoplos & Associates routinely represents clients in Real Estate Litigation cases in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

Antonoplos & Associates Real Estate Litigation Practice focuses on cases involving breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, and civil REICO claims against defendants during and after the sales process.

See Latent Defect Litigation

Peter D. Antonoplos, Esq. is a partner in the Law Firm of Antonoplos & Associates. Mr. Antonoplos’ practice focuses on estate planning, real estate, probate and business & corporate law matters. Mr. Antonoplos is a graduate of Catholic University Columbus School of Law (JD), Georgetown University Law Center (LLM in Taxation), and Yale University School of Management (MBA).  Mr. Antonoplos is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, New York State, and the State of Maryland. Mr. Antonoplos routinely lectures on real estate, estate planning, probate and business & corporate law issues in Washington, D.C. and New York. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and children.

He is an avid chess player and motorcycle enthusiast. For more information on estate planning contact our firm at (202) 803-5676 or

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