As homeowners in Connecticut deal with crumbling foundations, homeowners across the U.S. should understand how to spot faulty foundations and find out whether insurance might cover such an event. Pyrrhotite, a mineral that corrodes foundations and causes cracking, has contaminated an estimated 30,000 homes already, and many homes have depreciated as a result.
The Connecticut House of Representatives recently passed a bill that will add a $12 surcharge to homeowners insurance policies. This additional fee, while not favored by all, will become part of a relief fund that will help impacted homeowners manage the costs of their foundation repairs.
With the recent focus on crumbling foundations, it makes sense for new homebuyers to be leery of purchasing a home with a faulty foundation. It's crucial that potential homebuyers ensure their future homes have solid foundations.
Causes of Foundation Problems
A home's foundation is typically made by pouring concrete directly into the ground, and it's normal for it to shift and settle over time. Soil movement causes serious foundation problems when the movement isn't uniform, or if soil under one side of your house shifts but the other side doesn't. Moisture in the ground can impact this movement.
If the soil under your home collects a significant amount of extra moisture, it can cause the ground to expand, moving the foundation. The same can occur if there is an excessive loss of moisture in the soil. When the foundation moves, cracking and crumbling are often the result. Damage increases over time as water seeps inside the cracks, creating additional stress on the foundation.
Understanding the Homeowners Insurance Role
As a homeowner, you buy insurance to protect yourself financially in the event of a major loss. While this is critical to protecting your home and finances, there isn't guaranteed coverage for foundation repairs. Homeowners insurance policies offer payment for damages to your home as long as a covered event causes them. Before you file an insurance claim, you need to identify what caused the damage.
Standard homeowners policies cover damage caused by perils such as fire, lightning or vandalism. So if your foundation damage was caused by a covered event, such as a fire, you can file a claim with your insurance carrier to cover the damages.
Scenarios Not Covered
Insurance won't cover certain foundation damage cases, such as the one Connecticut homeowners are experiencing, when the damage was caused by an excluded peril. For example, if the damage may be caused by faulty construction, natural settling or expansion, shrinking, bulging, flooding, earthquakes, and even tree roots. All of these scenarios are common exclusions on a homeowners policy. If one of these caused foundation damage to your home, you can file an insurance claim, but it will most likely be rejected.
Read your insurance policy to understand its exclusions, and contact your insurance company with additional questions. Whether you have coverage or not, some insurance companies, like Amica, have a trusted list of contractors you can contact to repair your foundation. Hiring a recommended contractor streamlines the repair process because you don't have to do the standard legwork of searching for and vetting contractors. Some insurance companies also include a workmanship warranty, so you don't have to worry about faulty workmanship repairs later on.
Home Inspections: The Solution You Need
Anyone currently looking for a new home should request a home inspection before buying. A home inspector conducts a thorough walkthrough and looks for areas of concern, such as a faulty foundation. These items are addressed in a report provided to the buyer and/or agent. A home inspector's goal is to assess the safety of the home for new buyers.
When home inspectors identify areas of concern, buyers have leverage with the seller because the sale is contingent on the items being addressed and fixed. Without an inspection, it can be difficult for buyers to know what awaits them after the purchase. Some new homeowners end up having to replace a roof, HVAC system or a faulty foundation just months after moving in.
If you're currently shopping for your dream home, don't skip the home inspection. Spotting a damaged foundation can save you thousands of dollars, depending on the severity. If you have foundation damage and don't know what steps to take next, contact your insurance company to see if you have coverage and if it has a list of trusted contractors.