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Houston Chronicle Editorial: Stacked deck - Political Contributions Halt Homebuyer Protection
Saturday, 20 December 2008

Texas lawmakers flush with building industry contributions vote to extend life of fatally flawed TRCC
In disregarding a recommendation of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission staff to dismantle the Texas Residential Construction Commission, the elected members of the Sunset Commission's governing board have served their political interests at the expense of constituents...The Sunset Commission staff concluded that the TRCC is too flawed to repair and "without true regulation designed to ensure public protection," Texans are better served without it. We wholeheartedly agree and hope that in the coming legislative session, lawmakers will vote to shutter this sham of a commission.

Houston Chronicle Editorial
Stacked deck
Texas lawmakers flush with building industry contributions vote to extend life of fatally flawed TRCC

Dec. 19, 2008
In disregarding a recommendation of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission staff to dismantle the Texas Residential Construction Commission, the elected members of the Sunset Commission's governing board have served their political interests at the expense of constituents.

Houston home builder Bob Perry and other industry representatives have given nearly a half million dollars in campaign contributions to 10 lawmakers on the Sunset Commission, with the bulk of the money going to six Republicans. The TRCC was created in 2003 via a law drafted by Perry's corporate lawyer, who then was appointed to the TRCC by Governor Rick Perry, no relation to the builder but also a recipient of his campaign largesse. The TRCC board is dominated by members with building industry ties.

Homeowners with complaints about problems with construction work are required to submit their grievances to an inspection and mediation process before they can go to court. A report issued by the Sunset Commission staff last month found that instead of cracking down on unscrupulous and unqualified builders, the agency has actually prevented consumers from seeking legal redress.

According to the report, the TRCC from its inception was never meant to regulate the homebuilding industry. It does not license builders, and those registering with the commission are not required to demonstrate either professional competence or financial responsibility. Other trades licensed by the state such as electricians and plumbers are subject to such scrutiny.

Even if an inspection affirms homeowner complaints, the TRCC has no real power to force a builder to make repairs. "Because homeowners must submit to this process before they may seek remedies in court," states the report summary, "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 average time to process a homeowner's inspection request is 147 days, and can take as long as 20 months. Based on its own reports, since the creation of the TRCC only 12 percent of all closed inspections have resulted in a satisfactory offer of repair. The remaining 88 percent have resulted in legal action by one party or another, the very outcome that the agency was supposed to prevent.

There are better options for regulating homebuilders and protecting consumers. More than 30 states license residential construction companies, require competency exams, proof of financial solvency, and bonding and liability insurance. Some have dispute resolution programs that include the ability to enforce judgements.

The Sunset Commission staff concluded that the TRCC is too flawed to repair and "without true regulation designed to ensure public protection," Texans are better served without it. We wholeheartedly agree and hope that in the coming legislative session, lawmakers will vote to shutter this sham of a commission.

Read and post comments

Trains682 (0)
Trains682 wrote:
Wages paid to the actual workers that build houses when adjusted for inflation have fallen some 75% in the past 10 years while the prices charged for building a house have tripled. Is it any wonder that the home builders reaping these huge windfall profits have so much money to throw around in Austin ????
Add this to a list that starts with our state paying both the highest insurance rates and highest electricity rates in the nation. Now we can't even get rid of an agency that everyone ackowledges is bought and paid for by the industry. Why are we standing by and allowing this to happen again and again ????
Why aren't we holding our elected officials accountable ???? Do they not sell lanterns and pitchforks anymore ????

12/20/2008 3:44:58 AM

johncoby (10)
johncoby wrote:
This story is not accurate. Perry and his front groups contributed $1.6 MILLION to the Sunset Commission members. See "Perry's donations to the Sunset Commission" at:
http://bayareahouston.blogspot.com
Over the last 8 years $1,687,144.00 has been donated to the Commissioners, with Bob Perry donating $538,500.00, Perry's front group, Texans for Lawsuit Reform donating $1,038,377.00, and Hillco donating $110,267.00.
Senator Deuell received over a million of these donations.
I have been a consumer advocate for new home buyers since 1994 and it took me almost 15 years to realize this is a losing cause. Until there are common sense reforms and limits to contributions, you get what you paid for.
And Bob Perry got a lot!

12/20/2008 5:09:18 AM

Miemaw (1)
Miemaw wrote:
Texas politics at its moment of truth. When the lobby money hits the legislator pockets - the legislator -- gives the lobbyist exactly what they bought and paid for.

12/20/2008 5:27:29 AM

DennisN (0)
DennisN wrote:
I'd say Bob Perry is a pretty shrewd investor. But the problem, as I see it, is not Perry's money. He still gets to cast only one ballot in the voting booth. It's that the rest of us keep electing these people, as we just did again this past November.

12/20/2008 5:36:05 AM

Innercity (9)
Innercity wrote:
Some time back a lawyer friend took me with him to a legal briefing on TRCC. I'm a licensed real estate broker and my friend gets credit for his MCE. After listening to all the forms and other paperwork required, it dawned on me to ask my friend one question as we were leaving. "So the homebuyer has even less protection now, huh?" His reply: "Right."

12/20/2008 5:40:03 AM

twobe (9)
twobe wrote:
"Homeowners with complaints about problems with construction work are required to submit their grievances to an inspection and mediation process before they can go to court." Correction in regards to this statement. Victims of builders will not go to court , they will go to Mandatory Binding Arbitration which is in most builder and consumer contracts. Yet another consumer scam.
Until citizens #1 get off their butts and vote, #2 see the relationship between elected officals and the laws of this state, #3 vote out of office those that have no concerns for their constituents nothing will change,
TRCC is a state joke. Builders are, or were as the case may be laughing all the way to the bank while good hard working citizens who bought their wares are suffering and have lost everything.
In other states where the AG has gone after builders who wronged its citizens our AG continues to fill his warchest from this industry and could not care less in my opinion what they do, but sell a $2 bottle of water for 4 bucks during a hurricane, he'll come after you. Mind boggling!

12/20/2008 7:17:00 AM

Sarah1 (0)
Sarah1 wrote:
Ok, folks. Tell me what the difference is in this and Gov. Blagojevich?
Not defending....just saying...

12/20/2008 9:53:12 AM

twobe (9)
twobe wrote:
Sarah1-There is no difference.

12/20/2008 10:02:31 AM

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/6174420.html

 
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