George Jepsen
George Jepsen ()

Some insurance companies have expressed a willingness to participate in a program that would provide financial help to Connecticut homeowners with crumbling foundations, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Hundreds of Connecticut houses in the eastern portion of the state have had cracking in their basement walls, allegedly due to faulty concrete. The situation is the subject of litigation and an investigation by Attorney General George Jepsen’s office.

“My office has been engaged for a number of months in negotiations with insurance companies seeking to develop a program through which homeowners who are experiencing crumbling foundations could receive significant financial assistance in fixing their homes,” Jepsen said in a statement.

His office is working with Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration, and the state Department of Insurance and state Department of Consumer Protection.

The state has received word from a “small number of insurance companies that they would be inclined to participate,” Jepsen said.

He declined to identify the insurance companies at this point.

“I am grateful for their civic-minded willingness to consider a role in addressing this pressing public problem,” Jepsen said. “However, in order for the program to go forward, we need significantly more companies to commit to take part. I would strongly encourage Connecticut homeowners who are experiencing this problem, or who have friends or family members who are experiencing this, to contact their insurance companies and urge them to [do so].”

The Hartford-based Travelers insurance company is among the companies working with the state so far. The company issued a statement this week.

“We have been working closely with the Connecticut Department of Insurance, Department of Consumer Protection and the Attorney General on a program to assist homeowners in Northeast Connecticut with foundation problems caused by pyrrhotite,” said Matt Bordonaro, the company’s head of media relations, in an email. “We are hopeful that this program comes to fruition as it will help eligible Connecticut homeowners through this situation.”

According to Jepsen, officials believe that significant levels of the mineral pyrrhotite in stone aggregate used in the production of concrete is a substantial contributing factor to the crumbling foundations experienced by some homeowners in eastern Connecticut. However, he said more work is needed to understand all the contributing factors involved.

Lora Rae Anderson, spokeswoman for the State Department of Consumer Protection, said on June 30 the department had received 235 complaints about deteriorating concrete foundations.

State Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris said in an email that his department encourages this effort to help homeowners as one resource which hopefully can be made available to them.

“The Department of Consumer Protection is continuing their investigation thoroughly and deliberately so that consumers and other parties seeking to develop resources for homeowners have the best information possible,” Harris said. “We know that everyone has a role to play in building resources for homeowners who are suffering, including insurance companies.”

The crumbling foundation problem is the subject of ongoing litigation. In January, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of homeowners against their insurance companies, claiming they have refused to pay to fix the foundation problems. The plaintiffs are seeking a court order compelling the insurance providers, over 100 of them all around the country, to pay for new basement walls, along with reimbursement for the cost of litigation and attorney fees and interest.

Attorney Ryan Barry of Barry & Barall in Manchester, who represents the plaintiffs, said, “George Jepsen is an excellent Attorney General, and anything he is doing to bring these insurance companies to their senses is a big help.”

The homes in question were built in the 1980s and 1990s, and their foundations have such problems as spiderweb cracking, holes and concrete chipping, and need to be replaced, according to the litigation. The lawsuit claims each of the plaintiffs’ homes has basement walls that are irreversibly deteriorating as a result of “defective” concrete.

Companies involved in production of the concrete have asserted the problems being experienced by homeowners are due to an installation problem, rather than any problem with the product itself. •