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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Texas Sunset Commission votes not to abolish homebuilding agency, says it must resolve complaints faster
The Texas Sunset Commission voted Tuesday not to abolish the state's much-maligned homebuilding agency but said it must do a better job settling homeowner complaints...Under current law, a homebuilder cannot be forced to make any repairs and a homeowner cannot take a builder to arbitration or court until a resolution process is complete.The action falls short of a staff recommendation that the housing agency be abolished because it has become a boon to homebuilders. Critics say the agency effectively discourages homeowners from redressing their complaints by mandating they go through a bureaucracy that has no authority to fix their problems before taking their complaints to court.

Texas Sunset Commission votes not to abolish homebuilding agency, says it must resolve complaints faster
December 17, 2008

By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News
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AUSTIN – The Texas Sunset Commission voted Tuesday not to abolish the state's much-maligned homebuilding agency but said it must do a better job settling homeowner complaints.

Homebuilders praised the action, while a representative for homeowners said the commission's recommendations to the Legislature don't go far enough.

The Sunset Commission, which evaluates state agencies for efficiency, recommended that if the Texas Residential Construction Commission doesn't settle a complaint within 105 days, a homeowner can go to court.

Under current law, a homebuilder cannot be forced to make any repairs and a homeowner cannot take a builder to arbitration or court until a resolution process is complete.

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen and a member of the Sunset Commission, said establishing a time limit should force the agency to move faster.

"You can get it done," he said. "You're not stuck there for two to three years."

The Sunset Commission, which has been peppered by complaints from homeowners about construction problems, also voted to give the homebuilding agency greater authority to suspend or revoke a builder's license.

The Sunset report will go to the Legislature, which convenes in January and has the authority to make the changes recommended by the commission.

The action falls short of a staff recommendation that the housing agency be abolished because it has become a boon to homebuilders.

In the absence of abolishing the agency, consumers should have the choice from the beginning of going directly to court, said Alex Winslow of Texas Watch, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy group.

"The time limit is a step in the right direction," he said. "However, it should be coupled with making the process voluntary. Consumers need to have choices."

Scott Norman, executive director of the Texas Association of Builders, agreed that some complaints were taking too long to be resolved.

"Now, if this passes through the Legislature, the onus is going to be on the agency to really get to work and make sure those time frames work."

The agency was created with the backing of Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, the largest campaign contributor in the state. Critics say the agency effectively discourages homeowners from redressing their complaints by mandating they go through a bureaucracy that has no authority to fix their problems before taking their complaints to court.
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/texassouthwest/stories/DN-trcc_17tex.ART.State.Edition2.4a8057f.html

 
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