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Austin-Statesman Editorial: TRCC's Shoddy Design
Sunday, 24 August 2008

Shoddy design impairs agency for homeowner gripes
The staff of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission has recommended that the state abolish an agency created just five years ago, supposedly to provide fair and timely resolutions to disputes... You might expect consumer groups to complain and builders to cheer, but in fact it's the opposite — and that says something about the effectiveness of the Texas Residential Construction Commission. According to the Sunset staff, the commission and the law it operates under are so badly designed, so ineffective that it is "easy for even problem builders to stay in business." ..."No other regulatory agency has a program with such a potentially devastating effect on consumers' ability to seek their own remedies," the Sunset staff said...And "only 12 percent of all closed state inspection cases have resulted in a satisfactory offer of repair or compensation" to the homeowner, the Sunset staff said, with the remaining 88 percent left to go to the courts, "the very outcome the (inspection) process was enacted to prevent."

EDITORIAL
Shoddy design impairs agency for homeowner gripes
EDITORIAL BOARD
Saturday, August 23, 2008

Post and read comments on this Editoral

The staff of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission has recommended that the state abolish an agency created just five years ago, supposedly to provide fair and timely resolutions to disputes between new-home buyers and their builders over such things as cracked foundations and leaky pipes.

You might expect consumer groups to complain and builders to cheer, but in fact it's the opposite — and that says something about the effectiveness of the Texas Residential Construction Commission.

According to the Sunset staff, the commission and the law it operates under are so badly designed, so ineffective that it is "easy for even problem builders to stay in business."

The Texas Association of Builders criticized the Sunset recommendation and said it would return aggrieved homeowners to a position "with nowhere to turn but time consuming and expensive litigation."

But Texas Watch, a consumer group, agreed that the Residential Construction Commission should be abolished.

Although the Legislature last year tried to patch the law and improve the inspection process first set up in 2003, the staff says, "the commission still has no real power to require builders to make needed repairs.

"Because homeowners must submit to this process before they may seek remedies in court, those who fail to satisfy its requirements either out of confusion or frustration lose their access to court.

"No other regulatory agency has a program with such a potentially devastating effect on consumers' ability to seek their own remedies," the Sunset staff said.

The Residential Construction Commission was created during the 2003 legislative session to meet builders' demands for relief from lawyers and lawsuits, not home-owners' demands for help with construction disputes. Builders gave a lot more money to state officeholders' political campaigns, from the governor on down, than any consumer or homeowner group.

In theory, at least, the commission and its staff could greatly simplify and speed up the resolution of disputes compared with any lawsuit.

In practice, that's not the way it works, the Sunset staff says.

For example, although the commission got more enforcement authority last year, none of it relates directly to ensuring quality construction: "Thus, instead of addressing critical construction issues, the majority of actions taken against builders were for failure to timely renew a license."

And "only 12 percent of all closed state inspection cases have resulted in a satisfactory offer of repair or compensation" to the homeowner, the Sunset staff said, with the remaining 88 percent left to go to the courts, "the very outcome the (inspection) process was enacted to prevent."

It remains to be seen whether the Sunset Commission, made up mostly of state legislators, will adopt the staff recommendation and urge the Legislature to abolish the construction commission. But if it doesn't, the Legislature should at least give this rather tame watchdog a jaw and some teeth — and the will to bite.

http://www.statesman.com/hp/content/editorial/stories/08/08/23/0823residential_edit.html

 
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