In light of the recent flooding in Colorado some builders have taken the position that water damage to homes is an “act of god” and deny they are responsible for making repairs to the home. The builders apparently rely on the theory that flooding is a natural event that cannot be controlled and the builder is not responsible for damage that water causes to homes.
Black’s law dictionary defines as “act of god” as follows:
“A natural event that causes loss. No human force is used and the event cannot be controlled. An overwhelming, unpreventable event caused exclusively by forces of nature, such as an earthquake, flood, or tornado.”
When homeowners are faced with circumstances where a builder or insurance company denies responsibility for water damage, it is essential to determine what actually caused the damage. It may be that the homeowner is entitled to relief from the builder or insurance carrier because the damage may not be due solely to uncontrollable acts of nature.
Often, builders fail to establish proper grading and drainage to allow water to flow away from the structure of the home. This can result in water intrusion into the home entering window wells, through basement walls and into crawl spaces. If the builder fails to establish proper grading/drainage and the cause of the water intrusion is the improper grading and drainage, the builder’s reliance of the “act of god” defense may be inappropriate. This is because the water intrusion and resulting damage may be caused by the builder’s failure to use proper construction techniques and not a natural, uncontrollable “act of God.”
Similarly, some insurance companies may deny claims under the theory that water damage was caused by a flood and, in the absence of flood insurance, that insurance carrier does not have a duty to provide the property owner with benefits to correct the resulting water damage. Here again, the analysis needs to focus on the cause of the water damage. The cause of the water damage may not be the natural flood event. Rather, the cause of the water damage may be the result of a failure to adequately design or construct the property in such a manner that would have prevented the water from entering the home or other structures.
For more information, contact Milo Miller of Miller Kabler, P.C., at firstname.lastname@example.org