August 16, 2017

CT declines to probe crumbling foundation problem

Connecticut's U.S. attorney's office has declined to pursue a federal investigation into the area's crumbling foundation problem, and advised homeowners to contact the FBI for more assistance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Gifford explained in an Aug. 11 letter that her office is responsible for enforcing federal criminal laws, as well as representing the United States and its agencies and employees in various civil actions in court.

The FBI, however, is the appropriate agency to handle complaints that require additional investigation, she said in the letter to affected homeowner and Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements President Timothy Heim.

In his formal complaint to Connecticut's U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly, Heim detailed the long history of the issue now plaguing hundreds of homeowners in north-central and eastern Connecticut.

He provided a timeline of the issue, explaining that the initial report of a foundation failure to the state Department of Consumer Protection came from then-Tolland homeowner Linda Tofolowsky in 2001. But that information wasn't enough.

"The materials you provided to our office are insufficient to initiate a federal criminal proceeding," Gifford wrote. "However, you may wish to consider bringing any information you have about the crumbling foundation issue to the attention of the FBI to determine whether an investigation is warranted. If you choose to bring the matter to the FBI, it would be helpful to include any details and developments that would support a federal investigation."

Heim said he would contact the FBI to request the agency investigate any criminal wrongdoing or misconduct.

As a private resident who has no previous experience with this process, Heim said he had not considered that the FBI would have jurisdiction over any potential investigation.

He said he hopes an FBI representative will visit his Willington home to see the damage firsthand.

Although disappointed Monday, Heim said he remained committed to finding a solution for affected homeowners.

"We've been knocked down so many different times," he said. "We're just going to continue to get back up."

Many affected homeowners have been given estimates for the cost of replacing their foundations, which in Heim's case is roughly $200,000.

If a homeowner does not pay for repairs, they would lose the accrued equity in their home. However, if a homeowner doesn't have the equity in their home, many cannot afford to take out a loan to repair their foundation.

"Imagine waking up one morning, being told your house is now worthless," Heim said. "We just lost hundreds of thousands of dollars."

In addition to the FBI, Heim said he is holding out hope that state legislators will find a way to provide financial assistance when they come to a consensus on a budget.

Sen. Catherine Osten, D-Sprague, co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, has said that she intends to include $60 million in the budget for affected homeowners, but so far, the state has not provided any financial assistance to fix foundations.

A state investigation into the issue that determined the companies at the center of the issue could not be held accountable and insurance companies changing their language to exclude foundations, which Sen. Richard Blumenthal has said could be fraudulent, contributes to the frustration of homeowners.

"This isn't getting the kind of attention it deserves," Heim said.

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