Utility shutoff enables basement flooding, spurs lawsuit

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DEAR BOB: We closed the purchase of our home on May 7, 2004. The sellers needed to stay in the house until their new home was finished. They paid us daily rent. The sellers paid their rent and turned the keys over to us on Thursday, July 29. We performed our walk-through inspection with no problems. But when we arrived at the house on Saturday, July 31, we discovered the seller had the electric and gas turned off without notifying us. We phoned the utility company and learned they couldn't turn on our utilities until a week later. In that time, there were several days of heavy rain that resulted in a flooded basement, which ruined the finished basement due to the inoperable sump pump. I filed a claim with our insurance company. It was denied. Should I sue the seller in Small Claims Court for failing to notify us he was turning off the utilities? – Mike C. DEAR MIKE: That is a difficult question. I suggest you first get several written estimates of costs to repair the damage. The...