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HOBB Update Message
Monday, 25 August 2008

Your Help is Needed!
A message from Janet Ahmad
The Texas Sunset Report has recommended that the State Legislature Abolish the Texas Residential Commission (TRCC)

A message from Janet Ahmad
The Texas Sunset Report has recommended that the State Legislature Abolish the Texas Residential Commission (TRCC)

In case you haven’t heard by now, the Texas Sunset Commission released a scathing report that concluded the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) is "fundamentally flawed" and should be abolished!  Read Staff Report.  The story dominated the news last week, prompting major newspaper editorials in agreement with the Sunset Commission’s report.
I would like to thank all of our HOBB members as well as other participating consumer groups for their hard work and dedication.  Homeowners in every state have a stake in what happens in Texas .  If successful in Texas undoubted TRCC could become the benchmark of bad state policy throughout the country.

Homebuilders in every state have a huge financial stake in the outcome of this politically risky builder agency, which was skillfully marketed by the builders as a “Consumer Protection Agency.”  Instead its true intent was to cleverly craft a state agency to regulate homebuyer’s by forcing families into lengthy complex processes and costly legal disputes they can not afford. 

The driving force behind TRCC of course is the building industry’s greed to reap the economical benefits of avoiding builder responsibility to build long-lasting quality homes. The catalyst is money and influence, most notably the overgenerous contributions of Bob Perry ( Perry Homes ) and p
olitical influence
of David Weekley’s Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR).

We must acknowledge the vital roll the overzealous industry played in the failure of TRCC as well.  In its quest for governance of state policy an overconfident homebuilding industry underestimated the strength of aggrieved consumers.

Let us not celebrate just yet; there is still much work to be done in the next several months to see that lawmakers heed the Sunset recommendation to officially abolish TRCC.  Texans need the help of everyone in every state to send a message to lawmakers that will echo across the country.   No matter what state you live, please take a few minutes to join with Texans in a united effort sponsored by Texas Watch to let lawmakers hear from you. 

Action Alert - Tell Commission to Abolish TRCC
Tell the Sunset Commission to Abolish the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC)
Texas homebuilders have been given free rein to take advantage of ordinary Texans for far too long. We now have a unique opportunity to demand real reforms that will improve protections and options for Texas homeowners.  Send message to the Sunset Commission

Never underestimate aggrieved homeowners.  As FTC Commissioner Elizabeth Dole said long ago when speaking at the National Homebuilder Association Convention in January 1979;  

 “…consumers are going to rise up in wrath and deliver a mighty blow to your industry.” …the patience of the American consumer is rapidly running out… And it will not be denied over an issue so fundamental as decent housing.  

The Sunset Report ranks as one the most significant events in our history.  Please help HOBB abolish this TRCC hoax and keep it from spreading to other states.

Help us to help you by keeping in touch. Tell your story through HOBB , to your elected officials, and write the press.  We would like to hear from you so, please take a few minutes to post your comments on the HOBB Forum.

 Thank you,
Janet Ahmad, President
Home Owners for Better Building

Dallas Morning News: Duane Waddill, TRCC executive director, upon learning the Sunset Commission Report recommends abolishment of TRCC, calls it: "…a basic misunderstanding of what we were created to do. He said his agency's mission is to help resolve disputes between homeowners and builders…and not necessarily to regulate an industry."

News- Journal Editorial Recommends State Take Sunset Report Seriously
Oversight: Legislators should take Sunset report seriously
The TRCC, created five years ago after strident lobbying by home builders, is failing at its job, the Sunset Commission concluded. The Sunset report says that rather than resolve conflicts between builders and buyers, the TRCC has often frustrated consumers who have complaints about new homes...Consumer watchdogs have been critical of the TRCC from its inception, especially after Gov. Rick Perry's first appointments to the five-member commission included John Krugh, the general counsel for Perry Homes and the industry representative credited with writing much of the legislation that established the commission...The Sunset Commission report concludes: "No other regulatory agency has a program with such a potentially devastating effect on consumers' ability to seek their own remedies." If Texas lawmakers don't recognize that as a call to step up and represent the interests of their constituents during the 2009 legislative session, we're not sure what will get their attention — unless it's a new surge of campaign contributions. Read more... 

Austin-Statesman Editorial: TRCC's Shoddy Design
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." Read more...

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Shoddily Built
More reasons to raze the badly constructed agency set up to resolve homeowner disputes with builders
The advisory panel that reviews how well state agencies perform and whether they have outlived their usefulness has determined that the body set up to settle disputes between builders and homeowners is "fundamentally flawed" and should be abolished.  The fact that consumers are agreeing heartily with the recommendation while the construction industry is lashing out against it speaks volumes about how poorly the agency has served homeowners...Texans indeed need an agency that will provide real protection to victims of dishonest or incompetent builders. But what they have today in the Texas Residential Construction Commission is an ineffective agency built on a shaky foundation too defective to save. Read more... 

Austin KVUE Report: Scrap Agency for Reform that will Protect Homeowners and Taxpayers
Review calls for state agency's abolition
After just five years, there are calls to abolish the state agency responsible for resolving disputes between homebuilders and homeowners. That's the recommendation of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which routinely reviews all state agencies. In the Magnolia Creek Subdivision in Leander, homes sit unfinished and the community pool has long been abandoned... "So when you drive by here and you see of course the pool with weeds growing in it - nobody's going to want to buy a home here," said Curtis Almond, homeowner... "Unfortunately the TRCC has never been able to resolve any disputes between homeowners and homebuilders. That's why we need to scrap it and start over again so that we have a real reform that will protect homeowners and taxpayers in our state," said Alex Winslow of Texas Watch, a consumer advocacy group. Read more...

Ft Worth Star-Telegram’s Watchdog - TRCC Shades of Lipstick
The Watchdog: You can put lipstick on a pig...
Ever since the Texas Residential Construction Commission began five years ago, it has been criticized by consumer groups and some state officials as pro-builder and anti-homebuyer.  A 2007 state law that was supposed to toughen the commission hasn’t worked, the Sunset Advisory Commission concludes. And the pig is still a pig, says a pro-homeowners group that praised the report, when I asked its president about the old expression. "The so-called fixes last session were more lipstick, smoke and mirrors," said Janet Ahmad, president of HomeOwners for Better Building . "They can continue adding different shades of lipstick, but it’s still a builder protection agency run by the builders for the builders." Read more...

Austin Business Journal - A Scathing Sunset Advisory Commission TRCC Report
Sunset review report calls for abolishing Texas Residential Construction Commission
In a scathing report released Tuesday, the Sunset commission, which regularly reviews state agencies, argued that the TRCC is ineffective and does not have the public's trust when it comes to protecting Texans from unscrupulous or unqualified builders. The report goes on to say the TRCC, which was created in 2003 to help regulate the homebuilding industry, should be abolished. "Current regulation of the residential construction industry is fundamentally flawed and does more harm than good," the report says. Read more...

Express News: State recommend abolishing TRCC – HomeOwners for Better Building Agrees
HomeOwners for Better Building crowing about TRCC recommendation
HomeOwners for Better Building , the San Antonio-based group that has been in the news for fighting builders and its president's tactics, is celebrating because the state's Sunset Advisory Commission recommended that the Texas legislature abolish the Texas Residential Construction Commission...Janet Ahmad praised the recommendation in a press release. "The report is a consumer victory and goes a long way in restoring confidence in our state elected officials to do the right thing for genuine consumer protection this next session,” Ahmad said in the release. Read more...

Houston Chronicle - Abolish TRCC - Agency Fundamentally Flawed
Abolish Texas home dispute agency, state group urges
An agency created to resolve disputes between homeowners and builders is "fundamentally flawed" and should be abolished, the Sunset Advisory Commission staff said Tuesday..."It's really doing more harm to homeowners than good," said Joey Longley, executive director of the sunset commission... But the staff report said that only 12 percent of cases where the state has sent in inspectors to review alleged defects have resulted in a "satisfactory offer or repair or compensation over the life of the program."...88 percent of reported cases are pursued by one party or the other using the legal system — the very outcome the process was enacted to prevent," the report said. Read more...

AP Wire: Builder's agency should be abolished
Report says Texas homebuilder agency should go

The Texas Residential Construction Commission should be abolished because it is ineffective and frustrates homeowners trying to get builders to address defects in their homes, according to a state agency review released Tuesday... "We need to scrap it," said Alex Winslow of Texas Watch. "Consumers need real protections against unscrupulous builders who build shoddy homes, and the TRCC has never provided homeowners with that kind of protection."... The sunset report called it a lengthy and difficult process that frustrates homeowners. Despite recent attempts to strengthen the process with new penalties, the TRCC "still has no real power to require builders to make needed repairs," the report said. Read more...

Ft Worth Star-Telegram: TRCC too broken to fix
Abolition of state home-builder agency recommended
 The controversial state agency that registers home builders is too broken to fix and should be abolished, according to a report from the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission... The report said the TRCC is not a true regulatory agency and is not effective in keeping problem builders from working. The report also said that the process for homeowners to resolve disputes can be difficult and frustrating and that homeowners do not trust the inspection process.The sunset commission concluded "that anything short of a true regulatory program does more harm than good, and should be abolished." Read more...

Dallas Morning News: Texas Sunset Condemns TRCC
Agency recommends ending construction commission
Dallas Morning News: Duane Waddill, TRCC executive director, upon learning the Sunset Commission Report recommends to abolish TRCC, calls it: "…a basic misunderstanding of what we were created to do. He said his agency's mission is to help resolve disputes between home-owners and builders…and not necessarily to regulate an industry."...The original legislation was backed by Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who is also the largest political donor in the state. His spokesman, Anthony Holm, said it was a rare case where the industry came to the Legislature and asked to be regulated. Read more... 

The Forney Post: TRCC under fire from the start
Texas Sunset Advisory Commission Says Texas Residential Construction Commission Should Go
If you have a problem with your new house and the builder won’t fix it you go to the Texas Residential Construction Commission with a complaint. The Commission has been under fire almost since it started and now the Sunset Advisory Commission is recommending the TRCC be abolished.Texas Watch Director Alex Winslow agrees with that recommendation. “The TRCC is not serving the needs of homeowners and the legislature needs to go back to the drawing board and start over again.” The Commission is fighting back. It says it has shut down hundreds of bad homebuilders and without it consumers would have not protection and homebuilders could do whatever they want without someone looking over their shoulder..

Texas Watch: Sunset Staff Calls for End to Homebuilder Agency
Alex Winslow, Executive Director of Texas Watch issued the following statement: “Like many of the homes built by bad builders in our state, the TRCC is beyond repair.  We need to scrap it, go back to the drawing board, and implement a process that truly protects homeowners. “We endorse the Sunset staff’s recommendation to bring an end to the TRCC as we currently know it.  Lawmakers should replace the feckless TRCC with real reforms that ensure builder accountability, quality building standards, and true oversight and regulation of the homebuilding industry.  Instead of a builder protection agency like the TRCC, homeowners need an agency designed to serve their needs. “Consumers need real protections against unscrupulous builders who build shoddy homes, and the TRCC has never provided homeowners with that kind of protection.  Indeed, homeowners – not builders – are the ones regulated by the TRCC. Read more...

TRCC More Harm Than Good
Current regulation of the residential construction industry is fundamentally flawed and does more harm than good.  Despite changes last Session ostensibly to strengthen the process by making builders subject to new penalties if they refuse to offer repair of a confirmed defect, the Commission still has no real power to require builders to make needed repairs... No other regulatory agency has a program with such a potentially devastating eff ect on consumers’ ability to seek their own remedies. The Texas Residential Construction Commission Fails to Provide Meaningful Oversight and Public Protection Because of Fundamental Structural Flaws in the Current Regulatory Approach... Sunset staff concluded that anything short of a true regulatory program does more harm than good, and should be abolished. Read Staff Report

Georgia Finally Initiates Licensing Requirements for Home Builders
Certification hardly felt in struggling building industry
For years, Georgia had the most welcoming home-building industry in the Southeast: Anyone with a hammer qualified to construct a multiton, multistory house. And almost anyone did. Accountants. Pilots. Weekend hobbyists. But after years of initial industry opposition, Georgia this summer began requiring that builders be licensed, just like cosmetologists, hearing aid dealers and auctioneers... "It sounds promising," said Janet Ahmad, president of Home Owners for Better Building , a nonprofit based in San Antonio that pushes for industry regulation. The real test, she said, is how well the state enforces the law, which the Legislature first approved in 2004 but later tweaked and delayed implementation of until this summer. Read more... 

Foreclosure drives woman to suicide
A 53-year-old wife and mother fatally shot herself shortly after faxing a letter to her mortgage company saying that by the time they foreclosed on her house, she would be dead. Carlene Balderrama used her husband's high-powered rifle to kill herself Tuesday afternoon, shortly after faxing the letter at 2:30 p.m., police said. Read more...

Washington Post: Real Estate Appraisers - Still Business as Usual
Real estate appraisers still feel pressured to inflate valuations
Are mortgage loan officers and realty agents -- even individual home sellers -- continuing to influence or attempting to interfere with appraisals despite new federal rules that ban such behavior? Ask appraisers and many will tell you: It's still business as usual. Attempts at encouraging inflated appraisals continue to be commonplace, though in some cases the techniques have become subtler. "Absolutely, appraisers continue to get pressured" to hit the numbers needed to push transactions to closing, said Bill Garber, government affairs director for the Appraisal Institute, the country's largest professional organization representing appraisers. Read more...

Houston KTRK-ABC13: Lennar Neighborhood rallies to save homes
Neighborhood fights Grand Parkway Expansion
More than 60 new homes stand in the way of the Grand Parkway Expansion Project. Some homeowners in the Lakes of Avalon Villages say they are being victimized since the new highway will go right through the middle of their community. They say the home builder never informed them of the plan. The Grand Parkway Association says the developer of the property has known about the proposed route since 2004. The executive director even fought for the developer to inform its future buyers. Read more...

Inman News: Fannie-Freddie Deathwatch Begins
Commentary: No end in sight to credit starvation
The big news right now is the Fannie-Freddie deathwatch. First thing: Borrowers should relax; the consequences of demise for you will be either good news or no news. The pending takeover is in many ways a non-story, just confirmation that Fannie and Freddie were, indeed, too big to fail. Hopes will be dashed at the Fed and Congress that takeover will benefit our decapitalized financial system and the economy. Maybe, just maybe, the authorities will absorb that lesson, and begin useful action Read more...

Lennar Fails to Disclose Major Tollway - Lennar's Way or the Highway
Spring residents learn subdivision is in tollway's path — and wonder why they weren't told
 Nobody told her that their brand-new neighborhood was in the footprint of the Grand Parkway, a planned highway encircling Houston . Or that most of the nearby houses would likely be bulldozed when construction began on the four-lane tollway that would be her future next-door neighbor."Lennar or the developer should have disclosed this to us, and we would have went to another neighborhood and tried to start our new life," Martin said. "I planned on leaving this house to my grandchildren. But who wants to raise children next to a freeway?" Robert A. Hudson, a Spring developer who partnered with Lennar on the project, said builders knew the highway might come through the subdivision. Read more... 

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