REAL ESTATE MATTERS For release 12/08/13

BC-glink 12/08 TMS Original

REAL ESTATE MATTERS For release 12/08/13

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Homeowner suspects damage from nearby fracking operation

Tribune Content Agency

By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Q: I read an article from September in which you discussed the damages caused by fracking and how insurance companies were not covering those damages. I called the local oil company and filed a claim letting them know of possible damage to my home from their fracking activities. My home is located only four homes from their site.

They sent an agent to inspect our home. Last week the inspector told me she couldn't send me the report or let me know what it said. Please advise if you can refer me to anyone in California, or should I hire a home inspector and get my own report.

The company told me that their inspector's report indicated that their fracking activities didn't cause the sinking of our foundation and that our problems are likely caused by "external" factors. What should I do?

A: If you take the company's information as truthful, it may be the case that your problems are unrelated to a mining or fracking facility nearby. If their statements are true, your problems could be caused by normal occurrences of soil movement in your area.

However, if the company is causing damage to you and your neighbors, they might well be unwilling to admit fault to you or any of your neighbors. The report they received might show anecdotal evidence of damage to your home, but the company hired this inspector and the inspector may not be an independent and impartial party reviewing your issue.

Unfortunately, we don't think a home inspector is the only hired help you need. Home inspectors are great at finding damage and other problems that may affect a home. However, home inspectors may not have the expertise to dig into the root causes to your problems. For your issues, you might need a foundation specialist or other contractor with soil expertise or who has other relevant experience finding the specific causes to your problem.

Once you determine the problem and its cause, you then need to figure out if there is a correlation between your problem and the fracking. That causation may not be easy to establish. You might need a larger group of people to get together to study the issue. Just because you have a problem with your home, it doesn't mean that someone or a company is at fault.

Determining that correlation can be difficult and costly. However, if the problems have come about recently and have affected you and your neighbors (and it's important you ask them to see if their homes have had damage similar to yours) and there is a correlation between the timing of the fracking work and your problems, the only way to prove it is with experts whose testimony and report would withstand the scrutiny of a courtroom. And court could be where you're headed.

You might need an attorney that specializes in class action lawsuits, ideally one with expertise in the area of mining or fracking. Where it is too hard and expensive for one person to file suit, you might be able to find a whole group of people (i.e. your neighbors) to pursue a joint claim against a company. However, just because you get a class together doesn't guaranty that you have a case. Just as in the movies, you might need the "smoking gun" that shows some causality between your problem and the activities of this company.

We can't recommend any specific litigator. We recommend that you talk to your neighbors, city officials and legislators in your area, and also do some research on the Internet to see if you find others who have been affected in the same way. You will need to see where all this information takes you to see if you have a case.

One last factor to consider: You need to find out what it will cost you to repair your home and to determine if the home is going to need ongoing repairs in the future.

If the cost of those repairs is nominal and you can handle the repairs without much expense over time, you might just want to take care of the issues as they come up. If the expenses are high and will continue to rise, or if you find your home has become unlivable, it may be worth the initial outlay of cash to explore whether you have a suit against the company.

(Ilyce Glink is the creator of an 18-part webinar and ebook series called "The Intentional Investor: How to be wildly successful in real estate," as well as the author of many books on real estate. She also hosts the "Real Estate Minute," on her channel. If you have questions, you can call her radio show toll-free (800-972-8255) any Sunday, from 11a-1p EST. Contact Ilyce and Sam through her website,