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Austin-Statesman Editorial: Sunset Commissioners should do a better job for consumers
Saturday, 20 December 2008

Construction panel lacks effective power
The Sunset staff in August recommended that the construction commission be abolished because it and the law that created it were so badly designed and built that it was "easy for even problem builders to stay in business."  In essence, the law forced the buyer of a new home who had unresolved complaints about a defect to go through a new government bureaucracy, the construction commission, to resolve disputes before any lawsuit could be filed. ..But as the Sunset staff found, even after the Legislature tried to strengthen the construction commission's powers in 2005, it "still has no real power to require builders to make needed repairs."

Austin-Statesman Eidtorial
Construction panel lacks effective power


The Texas Residential Construction Commission is supposed to help homeowners with defective new homes but is ineffective and makes it harder for those with legitimate complaints to get resolution.
Friday, December 19, 2008

Despite staff advice, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission this week decided not to recommend to the Legislature that it abolish the Texas Residential Construction Commission. The Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13, can still scrap it and let careless or shoddy homebuilders take their chances before a judge or jury. Otherwise, it should make sure the construction commission does a better job for consumers.

The Sunset staff in August recommended that the construction commission be abolished because it and the law that created it were so badly designed and built that it was "easy for even problem builders to stay in business."

The law, passed in 2003, went easy on problem builders because its principal purpose from the start wasn't to protect or help aggrieved buyers of defective new homes but to give homebuilders a legal shelter from lawsuits.

In essence, the law forced the buyer of a new home who had unresolved complaints about a defect to go through a new government bureaucracy, the construction commission, to resolve disputes before any lawsuit could be filed. The rationale was that the commission could get the dispute settled far quicker than any lawsuit and at less cost to everyone involved.

And had it worked that way, the commission could in fact be useful, both to consumers and that majority of homebuilders who are diligent about correcting defects in their new homes.

But as the Sunset staff found, even after the Legislature tried to strengthen the construction commission's powers in 2005, it "still has no real power to require builders to make needed repairs."

Rather than dump the construction commission, the Sunset Commission — made up of 10 legislators and two public members — decided this week to recommend that the Legislature give homeowners the right to go to court if it doesn't settle a complaint within 105 days. It also voted to give the construction commission greater authority to revoke or suspend a builder's license.

Why not follow the staff recommendation? A San Antonio Express-News report this week provided an interesting clue: The 10 lawmakers on the Sunset commission have collected at least half a million dollars from homebuilders in campaign contributions since 2000 — $486,000 of it from Bob Perry, a Houston-based homebuilder.

The Texas Association of Builders, which wants to avoid the courts, endorsed the Sunset Commission's recommendations.

If the Legislature keeps the construction commission, it should at least adopt the recommendations to force it to act, in a timely way, on a homeowner's complaint. Just as important, legislators should hold the commission's management strictly accountable for applying the law fairly to homeowners and homebuilders alike and provide the commission enough funding to ensure sufficient staff to do so.

But aggrieved homeowners who can't get help from the construction commission should be able to go to court easily and quickly if a recalcitrant homebuilder won't cooperate.

http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/12/19/1219residential_edit.html

 
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