Water in basement, about to move in a tenant

17 Replies

Hi all, I posted in another forum about the actual water in basement problem (appears to be water seeping in due to heavy rains, may call a basement waterproofer) but I have another immediate issue I need to figure out.

My current tenant is moving out tomorrow (Sept 30) and I have a tenant lined up for October 1. I can have the house cleaned/prepped/ready for the new tenant, but this water issue is brand new.

I am supposed to speak to the new tenant today. They have not signed any agreements yet; I've only notified them that they were selected and I sent copies of our lease for their review.

I'm trying to work out how to proceed. I plan to be honest and let them know the recent rain has brought in a difficult water situation, which I am willing and working to fix ASAP. However, I wouldn't recommend they use the basement for storage, nor do I think it's feasible to use the washer/dryer in the basement (they have to dance around huge puddles of water slowly receding).

I was thinking of offering them the option to cancel, but I suspect that won't work well for them since they're expecting to move in. With part of the house technically unusable, I wanted to offer a rent discount so they have a place to live with the understanding that laundry/basement may be unusable or less than desirable until resolved, perhaps $100 off per month until resolved or something.

Any thoughts/advice?

I think you're on the right track. Be honest and see what they want to do. You may offer to cancel as well if they'd like but I think if you offer the discounted rent or something they may be okay with it. Just put it in writing. 

Also, are bedrooms in the basement or is it just Laundry? Depending on how much space is unusable you may have to increase the discount but of course you can start small and see how they respond. You'll also want to get folks in there ASAP to avoid mold issues, etc. (I'm sure yo know this already).

Good luck! I'm sure it will all work out. 

@Courtney King thanks for the feedback; I find in most cases that being honest and trying to do what is right is best. I also want to fix problems because that is part of our job as landlords.

There is only laundry, storage, and utilities in the basement, it was not a living area. Which is why I want to offer them a discount for a lack of usable storage and laundry until resolved. That should help with any laundry costs and if they need a temporary storage unit as well, I think.

But I also want to set the boundaries on this and "control" this to avoid it getting out of hand. I could see someone saying "give me half off" which won't happen -- I will offer a set discount, or free cancellation, but I can't think of any other viable solutions.

Every multi-family property I've ever purchased has had water seepage issues in the basement. It's often an easy fix. I'm not a super handyman but went to Lowe's and bought a few bags of Quikrete mortar mix along with the correct mortar color (to color the mortar the same color as the foundation). 

It works well. Though I had to hire someone to install some waterproof sheeting in one area I couldn't mortar (it was the last area where water was coming in and I couldn't mortar it because it was the one area the siding extended down to the ground - the guy extended the sheeting to the ground and sealed around it).

@Joe P. I think your idea/solution is totally reasonable. Be upfront/honest, offer the $100 discount.  If I was the renter and you were telling me this, I would think it's reasonable. They MIGHT counter, and ask you to guarantee the issue would be resolved in a short time period (e.g. 60 days) which I would think is reasonable

I live in the midwest and we get a lot of rain and I have a lot of properties. I tell all my tenants (unless I know otherwise) the basement is just for storage I am not really aware of floodings but if it's really important i.would put your belongings on pallets or off the ground. Sometimes 95% of the time I really dont know and i just let them know. I also know a lot of the issues are improper gutters or gutters needing be cleaned. In basement apartments I always install tile flooring in case of flooding and if there are drains I make sure they are cleaned professionally. Good luck.

@Joe P. I wouldn't offer anything to them, at least at first. Just call and explain the situation and see how they react. They may be willing to take the home and patiently wait for you to remedy the water issue. If they seem bothered by it, then you can try negotiating a reduction in rent until it's remedied or terminate. Far too many Landlords spend too much time worrying or they give away the farm to try and appease the tenant when the tenant may have accepted things as is.

On a side note, why don't you have anything in writing? Do you at least have a security deposit or something that ensures they're not walking away the day prior to moving in? I normally require a "holding deposit" (equal to the security deposit amount) on the day they are approved. I have them sign a holding agreement that says they will sign the lease and start renting on (date) for a rate of (price) and a term of (# of months). If they change their mind and fail to sign the lease and start renting, they forfeit the holding deposit and I put it back on the maret.

If you don't have anything in writing, you put yourself at risk of someone canceling and walking away without penalty. They can legally demand the deposit back because you don't have anything in writing showing they agreed to any stipulations.

@Karl B. I'm not handy myself but I'm curious/concerned if that would be like the old cartoon, where you plug one hole with your thumb, and another opens up, you plug that with a toe, and another opens up...in other words, there's so much pressure because the water can't go anywhere, it just spreads to other areas and creates more holes, or the pressure builds up and "explodes" somewhere. I'm not sure how that works, frankly, but that's a concern.

@Nathan G. I may change my procedures a bit to get a security deposit hold. NJ has very strict laws on the amount of money you can charge for a deposit (1.5x rent). I'm curious to know your procedure there; do you go to their current residence and obtain that holding deposit and have them sign?

You can have them come to you, sign it electronically, meet them at Starbucks, or however you want to do it. Once the applicant is approved, I let them know I need the HOLDING DEPOSIT in my hands within 24 hours or the property goes to the next person (or I continue advertising). Deposit must be in certified funds (money order or cashiers check) so I know the funds are good and won't bounce.

I also have them sign the holding agreement. Here's what it says:

Applicant acknowledges and agrees to the following:

  • Applicant paid $0000.00 on 12/12/2012 as a Holding Deposit for said property.
  • Applicant agrees to rent the property no later than (date agreement begins) for a period of (# of months) months and at a monthly rate of $0000.00.
  • The balance due on the day of occupancy will be ($amount due). This amount will be applied towards the following: first month's rent, security deposit, pet deposit, etc..
  • By receiving the Holding Deposit, AWR agrees to remove the property from the rental market and decline all other applications for this property.
  • If Applicant fails to enter into the rental agreement or otherwise complete the process of renting the unit, the forfeit the deposit completely. AWR shall immediately start marketing the property or offer it to the next approved applicant.

That should give you enough to get started.

Another option is to accept the deposit and have them sign the lease agreement with a future start date. There's nothing wrong with signing the lease agreement early.

Originally posted by :

I'm not handy myself but I'm curious/concerned if that would be like the old cartoon, where you plug one hole with your thumb, and another opens up, you plug that with a toe, and another opens up...in other words, there's so much pressure because the water can't go anywhere, it just spreads to other areas and creates more holes, or the pressure builds up and "explodes" somewhere. I'm not sure how that works, frankly, but that's a concern.

That won't happen. Water gets in from openings. It's not a pressure situation. You can learn to mortar by watching Youtube videos (it's easy - you'll see). When you seal the cracks/holes that let in water the water won't seep into the basement. 

Whomever you hire is going to use mortar or some other sealant (if you end up hiring someone try to be there so you can learn how to do the work - it's always good to know). Also, it's good to be there when it's raining to make certain your gutters/downspouts are working properly.    

And I agree with @Karl B. that there is typically a crack (or many) allowing water to seep in. You can buy kits that allow you to seal those cracks or you can hire a foundation specialist to do it and charge an arm and a leg. It's not that difficult if you are generally capable of following instructions.

You can also try to find the source of water outside the home. Is there a leaking sprinkler or drip system? Rain gutters not draining water away from the house? Does the ground slope in towards the home? By cutting back on the amount of water sitting around the foundation, you can eliminate a lot of problems.

@Karl B. and @Nathan G. - just wanted to thank you guys for your help. I had a couple of basement guys come in and offer to put in french drains, one guy was $2000 for a small section, another guy was $6750 to do 75% of the basement.

I thought it best for me to try the hydraulic cement route first. Went to Lowes, picked up a trowel, and a big bucket, and a few cups for 20 bucks. Mixed it up, went to down on a big section -- kind of odd to put on and hard to make even, but it seemed to have settled well, and I covered about 30 feet of a seal between wall and floor.

Last night, we had severe rains from Hurricane Michael in the Philly area -- it was pouring most of the evening with severe thunderstorms. I did nothing but fret the whole night, thinking about the amount of water I'd walk into today. I got there this afternoon -- 99% DRY! There's a little bit of water near the rear of the building, but its just wet, no puddles, no major issues. I can probably use some hydraulic cement on the exterior where I think its getting in.

Can't thank you guys enough - it wasn't tremendously fun mixing and trying to roll that stuff into a tight area, but it was all worth it to walk in to a completely dry basement today. I've been randomly pumping my fist over the past 2 hours when I think about it. :D

Originally posted by @Joe P. :

@Karl B. and @Nathan G. - just wanted to thank you guys for your help. I had a couple of basement guys come in and offer to put in french drains, one guy was $2000 for a small section, another guy was $6750 to do 75% of the basement.

I thought it best for me to try the hydraulic cement route first. Went to Lowes, picked up a trowel, and a big bucket, and a few cups for 20 bucks. Mixed it up, went to down on a big section -- kind of odd to put on and hard to make even, but it seemed to have settled well, and I covered about 30 feet of a seal between wall and floor.

Last night, we had severe rains from Hurricane Michael in the Philly area -- it was pouring most of the evening with severe thunderstorms. I did nothing but fret the whole night, thinking about the amount of water I'd walk into today. I got there this afternoon -- 99% DRY! There's a little bit of water near the rear of the building, but its just wet, no puddles, no major issues. I can probably use some hydraulic cement on the exterior where I think its getting in.

Can't thank you guys enough - it wasn't tremendously fun mixing and trying to roll that stuff into a tight area, but it was all worth it to walk in to a completely dry basement today. I've been randomly pumping my fist over the past 2 hours when I think about it. :D

 Now that's what I like to hear! A penny saved is a penny earned and you just saved between 200,000 and 675,000 pennies! And definitely seal the exterior ground/wall as well. Trapped water (whether in walls or between the foundation and interior wall) can cause mold issues. 

@Joe P. - we had two basement specialists come out and tell us we couldn’t fix the basement water problem with gutters, drylok, hydraulic cement. They wanted to make French drains for 6-9k. $100 of drylok later (5 gallons), basement is bright and not wet! Never trust the experts without asking here first!

I had a vertical crack in my basement, all along the height of the wall, and it had started to lean in on one side, so the crack was no longer flush. Previous owner had installed gutter guards to keep leaves (oh! and water) out of the gutters. I removed some of the gutter guard and extended the downspout further downhill away from where the water was depositing (oh! right outside the crack in the basement).  The crack realigned itself within a couple of weeks and was flush again. Hydrostatic pressure is real.