An investigation into deteriorating foundations affecting hundreds of Connecticut homeowners – and the impact on their insurance policies – has found that Connecticut consumer protection laws were not violated, according to state officials.
The state Department of Consumer Protection announced this week that a claim under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) does not seem possible. When DCP became aware last year of crumbling foundations impacting homeowners and affecting their insurance coverage, officials asked the attorney general to investigate whether a legal case was feasible under state law.
The finding is not surprising given the framework of CUPTA, which requires that officials prove a deceptive act or practice in order to file a claim, according to Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris.
“The result is certainly disappointing for families who have made claims,” he said in a statement. “Our agency will continue to move our investigation forward deliberately and thoroughly. We are confident that the information we have already gathered, and will continue to gather in the future, will be useful in the hands of those seeking to develop further resources for homeowners.”
The investigation is a top DCP priority, he said.
“We have always communicated that we know there will not be one fix to this problem, but that state and private sector partners will need to continue to explore multiple options for homeowners,” he added.
The companies at the center of the controversy are Stafford-Springs based J.J. Mottes Co. and Willington-based Becker Construction Co. More than 200 homeowners in eastern Connecticut have complained of deteriorating foundations, all of which were poured by J.J. Mottes in the early 1980s through the late 1990s and contain material from a Becker quarry.
The state’s investigation into the deteriorating foundations is slated to be completed this fall, with a final report on the potential cause of the problem due by Jan. 1.
In the meantime, the companies agreed in May to stop selling materials or products that contain certain aggregate – crushed stone, sand or gravel – from Becker’s Willington quarry for use in residential concrete foundations statewide until June 2017.
“The extensive media and governmental scrutiny has led to another issue arising – in addition to the homes affected by damage, there are now large numbers of homeowners and potential home buyers who do not have problems but are being conditioned to believe they could,” John Patton, a spokesman for The Joseph J. Mottes Company, said. “Certainly those homes with damage need to be remedied, but a comprehensive solution is called for – one that will assist those who are not financially capable of helping themselves, one that guards against predators of all kinds and one that helps to ease the burden that has been placed on the real estate market. We believe that effective low cost preventive remedial actions exist, that appropriate independent authorities can and should identify these techniques, and that this information needs to be widely shared and adopted.”
Meanwhile, DCP, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman’s office, the Insurance Department and other agencies in state government will continue to explore next steps, officials said. The Insurance Department recently launched an effort to ensure homeowners receive adequate notice of any changes to their insurance policies as a result of the problem.
“This has no doubt been a challenging and frustrating time for many families in eastern Connecticut – and we take their concerns very seriously,” Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade said in a statement.”That’s why we are working so diligently to bring insurers to the table, have productive discussions, and hopefully help affected homeowners.”
Wyman also said the state is exploring all options to help homeowners.
“Our homes are core to family security and the biggest investment many of us make in our lifetime,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to seek options for homeowners who are dealing with these foundation failures, and I encourage them to urge their insurers to participate in the fund to benefit impact homes.”