Government Affairs

U.S. Senate Passes Provisions on Crumbling House Foundations

The United States Senate has recently passed two provisions regarding the issue of certain home foundations, primarily in Northern Connecticut, being susceptible to crumbling.

The Worldwide ERC® Real Estate and Mortgage Forum has been following the issue to ensure members are aware of the problem before taking a potentially affected home into inventory or being considered for purchase by a transferee.

On 1 August, the Senate passed by 92 to 6 the FY2019 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill (H.R. 6147) which included language of the FY2019 Financial Services and General Government Services (FSGGS) Appropriations Bill. The first provision related to crumbling foundations falls under the FSGGS section of H.R. 6147. The language would direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study to examine the financial impact of pyrrhotite in concrete foundations and provide recommendations on regulatory and legislative actions to help mitigate the financial impact of such foundations on homeowners and other affected parties.

The second provision relates to the Interior and Environment portion of the bill under the United States Geological Survey and provides $100,000 in funding for the development of a map depicting pyrrhotite occurrences in the United States. There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of home foundations which have an excessive amount of pyrrhotite, which is the root cause of the crumbling. The Connecticut counties most affected are Hartford, Tolland and Windham. These circumstances are creating unsafe and, in some cases, uninhabitable dwellings.

The houses in question all have concrete provided by one concrete vendor and material obtained from a Willington, Connecticut quarry. The time period of the affected homes is hard to definitively identify but appears to run from the very early 1980s to well into the 2000s. Of course, relocation professionals should also keep in mind that additions, garages or other repairs may have been made to homes outside of this time period with the concrete in question.

This specific concrete mixture has high levels of pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide mineral that can react with oxygen and water to cause swelling and cracking. The concrete vendor denies responsibility, asserting that the problems arise from improper installation. To further complicate matters, records where the concrete mixture was used were destroyed in a fire a number of years ago.

The chemical reaction that causes crumbling home foundations can lead to catastrophic home collapses. At the present time, the best remedy once cracks start to appear is a total foundation replacement, which presents daunting financial and logistical challenges for homeowners. 

Related: U.S. CFPB Concludes RESPA Investigation of Zillow Co-Marketing

How This Impacts Mobility

While not a guaranteed indicator of a future problem, prior to accepting a home into a relocation program, a thorough inspection of the foundation should be completed. Additionally, in-bound transferees should be made aware of this issue and encouraged to have a thorough foundation inspection to reduce the risk of purchasing an impacted property.

Jay Hershman is Chair of the Worldwide ERC® Real Estate and Mortgage Forum and Senior Partner, Baillie and Hershman

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