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HOBB Weekly Update Message
Monday, 21 May 2007

A message from Janet Ahmad - How do we remain optimistic?

A message from Janet Ahmad
How do we remain optimistic?

This week’s news, some is encouraging and some no so encouraging. One thing is certain, like never before the media across the country is paying very close attention to the contemptible homebuilding industry’s use of its powerful political influence, which assures inequitable treatment for buyers of defective homes.

Each week – although occasionally difficult – I endeavor to make it my personal mission to deliver a message of hope and encouragement however, this week it is especially difficult.

No where is special interest money power as evident as Texas where builders freely build substandard homes, confident they will not be held accountable.  No where is it so difficult to remain optimistic than Texas when historically builder political influenced legislation has had such success and a profound effect on other states.

What is amazing is despite the years of overwhelming condemnation and negative news reporting of the scandalous Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) “Builder Protection Agency” the State Legislature once again appears headed toward acquiescing to homebuilders.  Paul Burka, Senior Executive Editor of Texas Monthly summed it up best; “In the end, however, it still added up to lipstick on a pig, and not just any pig, but the ugliest, dirtiest pig the Texas Legislature has brought into existence in all the years I have been covering it. There is only one remedy for the TRCC, and that is to send it into oblivion.” (See article below)   

Just a few short weeks ago 12 pro-homebuyer protection bills were heard in committee, including one that would have abolished TRCC, a Home Lemon Law and several conservative bills that would have truly reformed TRCC.  Yet the industry celebrated as the Ritter HB1038, builder’s bill immerged from committee.  Ultimately the name of Representative Alan Ritter will go down in history as the author of the worst kind of special interest legislation in the nation.

But, not all the blame can be put on the Texas Association of Builder’s special interest boy Rep. Alan Ritter. There is far too much blame to go around. For those of you reading this message please understand that it is our obligation as victims to fight for our basic rights that the building industry has systematically taken from us.  No one group or group of organizations can possibly stop this madness that will continue to devastates families unless more become actively involve.  

During this last week of the Texas legislature please write lawmakers about your contempt for Rep. Ritter’s HB1038.  To sum it up HB1038 does provide TRCC with some enforcement power and penalties.  However, the bill falls well short of helping victims and still incorporates bureaucratic roadblocks, which prevents
 home buyers from recovering from unscrupulous and/or incompetent builders.  
See: Tell Texas Senators to Stand up for Homeowners
Please take a minute to send Texas Lawmakers your concerns

We would like to hear from you so, please take a few minutes to post your comments on the H O B B   F o r u m.
Together we have and will continue to make a difference!  Help us to help you by keeping in touch. Your participation is vital.

Thank you,
Janet Ahmad, President
HomeOwners for Better Building
 
**********************************************************************
NEWS UPDATES:

ACTION ALERT: Another New York State Public Hearing on Home Improvement
New York State Public Hearing
Urgent!  For New Yorkers, don’t miss one last opportunity to speak before the Consumer Protection Board Wednesday, May 30, 2007 to help determine how the State can better protect consumers who contract for home improvements.  It is important that everyone concerned with consumer protection attend or give written testimony, even if you do not reside in New York.
Read more...

ACTION ALERT: Tell Texas Senators to Stand up for Homeowners
TEXAS WATCH provides link
With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, it is crucial that lawmakers hear from you about the need to dramatically reform the Texas Residential Construction Commission. House Bill 1038 was originally crafted to rein in the homebuilding industry and give the Texas Residential Construction Commission more teeth. Read more...

Texas Observer - TRCC Capitol Offense
Texas Government's Potemkin Village
Many other builders are deciding TRCC registration isn’t worth the money and are blatantly building without one, according to an Observer investigation. More problematically, some builders whose registrations have been revoked are still working on homes as well. The Observer found that, of the 71 builders whose registrations the agency revoked or canceled last fall, nearly a third were still in business this spring. Moreover, the agency—which has little enforcement power—can’t do much about it. It’s further evidence that the feeble agency, created to protect consumers and regulate builders, isn’t doing very much of either... Lawmakers filed numerous bills this session to reform the TRCC. Consumer groups backed legislation by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat, that she dubbed a Home Lemon Law. It would provide home buyers more protections, and it is withering in the House. Instead, the House passed House Bill 1038 by Nederland Democrat, Allan Ritter, who sponsored the original legislation in 2003 that created the TRCC. Read more...

Texas Monthly: Same Pig. Uglier Lipstick
Same Pig. Uglier Lipstick
Texas Residential Construction Commission, which exists to protect Bob Perry, David and Dick Weekley, and other well connected homebuilders from lawsuits that previously could have been brought by disgruntled buyers. Apparently one loophole was left open that could have subjected a builder to disciplinary action. Not to worry. The Senate has closed it. Adding the word "court" means that failure to pay a final arbitration judgment would not be grounds for discipline by the TRCC. As far as I know, Perry Homes is the only builder that has been ordered by an arbitration panel to pay a homeowner. He has appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court. Oral arguments were heard n March and we are awaiting the Court's decision.  See Related Texas Monthly article: Lipstick on a Pig  -  Read more...

Voting Texas Style - What Lawmaker is voting for you?
Lawmakers Vote Multiple Times For Others
There's been a lot of debate at the State Capitol on bills relating to voter integrity. Some lawmakers are pushing for measures such as requiring voters to show a photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot. But the integrity of one person, one vote doesn't apply at the legislature. CBS 42 found many lawmakers vote more than once. "I certainly noticed. There appears to be far more votes on the tick board than there were people in the room," capitol visitor Laurel Weiss said. Arnie and Laurel Weiss were baffled when they came to see the legislature in action. "It seems very inappropriate and they should do something about it,” Arnie Weiss said. Read more...

WFAA's Byron Harris investigation revealed questionable real estate transactions
Three indicted in McKinney mortgage fraud
Last fall, a News 8 investigation revealed questionable real estate transactions in the Hills Creek neighborhood of McKinney. Yesterday, a Collin County grand jury indicted three men for allegedly lying on deeds on three different homes in the neighborhood. On Hills Creek in McKinney, a house went from $315,000 to a sale price of $625,000 in four years. Now the Collin County Grand Jury has indicted three men for lying on deeds to homes on Hills Creek. Not one lives in the neighborhood. All allegedly told their mortgage lenders they were. Read more...

Lennar under fire in North Carolina
S.L.E.D. Contacts Lennar Homeowners
Two homeowners we talked to say that S.L.E.D. agent Pete Logan contacted them about the recent complaints against the homebuilder. Lennar has been under fire accused of violating building codes...and the city of North Charleston for approving those homes. Read more...

Troubles for Lennar - Ex-Employee Talks
Former Lennar Homes Employee Speaks Out
Charleston, SC - One of the nation's largest home builders continues to steal the spotlight here at home as allegations of bad building surround Lennar Homes.  Now, a former employee is speaking out.  He says some of these big builders like Lennar Homes, who he once worked for, cut corners just to meet their quotas.  That's because he says it's the number of homes they're after, not the quality.  But he says the City is also at fault.  Read more...

Texas Monthly calls TRCC legislation, lipstick on the ugliest, dirtiest pig in existence
Lipstick on a Pig
It is undoubtedly a good-faith effort to improve the process by which home buyers are prevented from recovering money from unscrupulous and/or incompetent builders, and Dan Gattis, who has had buyers' remorse about the TRCC for four years now, put his best efforts into putting still more teeth into the law, and so did Ruth McClendon. In the end, however, it still added up to lipstick on a pig, and not just any pig, but the ugliest, dirtiest pig the Texas Legislature has brought into existence in all the years I have been covering it. There is only one remedy for the TRCC, and that is to send it into oblivion. Read more...

Wiltshire Homes Buys Back Home, Other Want The Same
Homebuilder Buys Back Problem Home
A homebuilder buys back a home in a North Side subdivision after flooding destroys the back yard. It’s turning into a home horror story. When I bought it I was told water would never come over this wall.  In the driest days of summer, I still had water coming down.  Still water continues to build up with devastating results… Rebecca - I’m not looking for a fight, I can’t rent my home out in the condition it’s in nor sell it. View: Homebuilder Buys Back Problem Home

KVUE Defenders - Contractors Caught on Camera
Defender Sting Part 2
In tonight's Defender's investigation a crackdown on unlicensed contractors continues.  State investigators set up the operation and invited KVUE along. View video Report

KVUE News - Mold Found in New Incomplete School
Mold, construction issues delay opening of LISD school
Leander ISD officials say a new elementary school will not open in time for the 2007-2008 school year as planned. Officials say a number of things affected the delay of Grandview Hills Elementary School, including: -- Mold found behind an outside brick wall.-- Excessive rain causing construction delays. -- Construction and site issues with the City of Austin. Grandview Hills was already a source of controversy for some LISD parents who have been concerned about the school's safety because the site once housed a chemical company. Read more...

MSN Money: Binding Arbitration Not Good For Consumers
Arbitration ties consumers' hands
Unhappy customers used to threaten, "I'll see you in court!" That often won't work anymore. These days, consumers are increasingly forced to resolve disputes via mandatory binding arbitration. Unfortunately, though many people now are covered by binding-arbitration agreements, most don't know what they are, how they work, when they come into play or who would decide the fate of their complaints. Businesses love binding arbitration. For them it's a faster and cheaper way to settle disputes and a great way to generate debt collections. Read more...

KB Home with mold robbed
Security A Concern After Break-In At SAHA Home
Homeowner was told to leave his home on Precious Drive because of mold. But, as the house sat in limbo security has now become a issue. My first 50 inch big screen TV, my wife gave it to me as a Christmas present...  But now that big screen TV is gone, sheet pulled off two beds, draws picked through and then trashed.  My desktop, my computer, my printer their all gone. Erik Barajas Reports

OOUTSTANDING REPORT: Houston Fails to Inspect, Endangers Lives
Thousands of Houston buildings at risk for fire, collapse 
11 News Investigates discovered thousands of local places not passing those inspections and not obtaining a certificate that makes them legal. And while the building owners aren't fixing the problems, city inspectors often do little or no follow up; putting Houstonians at risk...11 News Investigates obtained city records showing more than 20,000 buildings in Houston have gone more than five years without passing the required inspections. So who’s not minding the store? Houston’s Code Enforcement division in the Department of Public Works. “At the very least ot looks like an agency that has operated with gross incompetence,” Texas Watch spokesman Alex Winslow said. Texas Watch is a government watchdog group. “It’s unconscionable, it is irresponsible and the people of Houston deserve much better,” he said. Read more...

Forced Arbitration - Questions Arbitrator’s award in disregard of the law
Court Affirms Award Despite Objections by Prevailing Homeowner

A Texas appellate court affirmed a $29,500 arbitration award for a homeowner against a roofing contractor, upholding an arbitration provision in the parties’ contract and denying the homeowner’s efforts to vacate the award as too low. Teel v. Beldon Roofing & Remodeling Co., No. 04-06-00231-CV (Texas Ct. App., 4th Dist.)...Teel sued Beldon Roofing and Remodeling for breach of contract and breach of warranty, complaining that incomplete roof repairs led to water intrusion and mold contamination in her home. Beldon moved to stay and compel arbitration, citing the arbitration provision in the parties’ roofing contract, which expressly incorporated the Federal Arbitration Act. That motion was granted. Read more...

OUTSTANDING REPORT - ABC11 Troubleshooter Diane Wilson Builders Caught on Tape
Unlicensed Contractors Caught on Tape
Unlicensed contractors accused of taking thousands of dollars from unwitting homeowners and we caught how they do it on tape! These contractors are breaking the law and are leaving their customers in the lurch. Darlene Burton is left with a big mess after she hired Jimmy Yellock of Universal Trades Construction to build an addition to her home. She tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "Everything he did was wrong, everything he did except the wall in the bathroom has to be redone." Read more...

Task Force Investigating SAHA/ KB Home Mess
New Mirasol task force seen as making progress
 A new spirit of cooperation has begun to take hold in the effort to solve persistent problems at Mirasol Homes. Already, the 11-member task force has established two broad areas of inquiry, set tentative deadlines and agreed that the group must come up with attainable solutions. After a 31/2-hour meeting Wednesday, the group was unanimous in making health concerns its top priority, with a second thrust aimed at investigating construction complaints. Read more...

 
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