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Monday, 29 December 2008

Senator’s got Sunset on his mind
The agency is supposed to oversee home inspections and help the homeowner and builder come to an out-of-court agreement. But critics contend that this process often gets mired in bureaucracy. “The bottom line is that it doesn’t serve the interests of homeowners,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, an Austin-based consumer advocacy organization. Winslow wants the Legislature to abolish the agency and adopt more rigorous licensing standards for home builders, but he will also support making the state commission inspection process optional to homeowners.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles advancing the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature.

KATY – State Sen. Glenn Hegar does not have a primary goal for the upcoming legislative session.

“I think it would be irresponsible for me to have just one thing,” he said this month during an interview in his Katy office.

But the Republican state senator does have some work that will occupy much of his time after the Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 13. Hegar is vice chairman of the Sunset Advisory Commission, a legislative body that was created in 1977 to review state agencies. It is comprised of 10 legislators and two members of the general public.

The commission analyzes whether the state still needs the agency and, if it does, whether the structure and operations of the agency should be changed. After staff investigations and public hearings, the commission makes recommendations to the Legislature.

Commission members then draft legislation based on the recommendations and try to bring it through the Texas House and Senate.

This process is often contentious.

“Sunset bills are very major pieces of legislation and sometimes they have a lot of issues involved and a lot of issues at stake,” Hegar said.

Twenty-seven state agencies came under the commission’s review between January and December 2008. This included the Texas Residential Construction Commission, which was recently a source of controversy.

Homeowners must first go to the stage agency before they can file a lawsuit against their home builder for post-construction defects.

The agency is supposed to oversee home inspections and help the homeowner and builder come to an out-of-court agreement. But critics contend that this process often gets mired in bureaucracy.

“The bottom line is that it doesn’t serve the interests of homeowners,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, an Austin-based consumer advocacy organization.

Winslow wants the Legislature to abolish the agency and adopt more rigorous licensing standards for home builders, but he will also support making the state commission inspection process optional to homeowners.

“Rather than erecting delays and barriers, we need to make it easier for home owners to get their homes fixed,” he said.

The commission’s investigative staff also concluded that the agency should be abolished. The staff’s report found that “no other regulatory agency has a program with such a potentially devastating effect on the consumers’ ability to seek their own remedies.”

However, commission members voted unanimously on Dec. 16 to renew the agency for another four years.

Hegar agreed that the agency needed reforms, but he did not think its complete abolition would solve anything. A homeowner would have only 60 days to notify a home builder before he could bring the matter to court, Hegar said. And then it would often take more than a year for a legal decision to be issued.

“What I proposed, which ultimately we adopted, eliminated a lot of time,” he said. “It reduced the number of days for the person to go through each of the steps.”

The commission decided the agency should have 105 days to complete the process or the homeowner could opt out and seek redress in court.

“Under this process, you don’t have to hire a lawyer, you don’t have to go to the courthouse, you have the opportunity to have the TRCC put a hammer over the home builder’s head,” Hegar said.

http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/793/story/382136.html
Read and post comments on this article

 Comment From: JanetAhmad  (Report this comment as a violation)

Mon Dec 29, 2008 21:31:00 CST

With all due respect Senator Hager 105 days is nothing more than TRCC “Smoke and Mirrors”

This is not about TRCC disposing of the complaints and getting to court quicker. Two state
agencies have confirmed that 86 to 88 percent of homeowners who went through TRCC and confirmed defects didn’t get the defects corrected.

The Texas Sunset Commission Staff, the agency charged with review of all state agencies,
after an extensive review concluded homeowners are better off without TRCC.

In an unprecedented report Sunset staff stated that anything short of a true regulatory program does more harm than good, and should be abolished. Abolish the TRCC and repeal the Texas Residential Construction Commission Act that created it.

The real issue is there is no penalty for building defective house. Texas builders have no incentive to build houses right in the first place if they have an unlimited right to repair defects. Further, builder contracts and builder warranties contain binding mandatory arbitration (BMA) clauses and after TRCC there is no remedy through the court. In the end homeowners are forced to BMA where repeat builder business greatly influences the outcome; where builder win and homeowner lose.

The true intent (Smoke and Mirrors) of TRCC is to force all defects/warranty issues into costly and lengthy legal disputes that most can not afford. Anything short of abolishment of TRCCA and adoption of State licensing based on established laws of other states is shameless state policy for citizens of Texas.

 
 
 

 Comment From: scammed  (Report this comment as a violation)

Mon Dec 29, 2008 19:52:39 CST

In regards to your article "Senator's got Sunset on his Mind" I would like to clarify some issues in regards to TRCC. Homeowners who have the unfortunate luck of ending up with a defective new home in the vast majority of cases cannot file a lawsuit. This is because the builders had a mandatory binding arbitration clause put into almost all builder contracts. This means you have
lost your constitutional right to a trial by jury. You will go to the assigned arbitration company the builders chose and it may well cost you more then a lawyer would. Chances are you will loose.
I would ask readers to go to the websites of Homeowners for Better Building and Homeowners Against Deficent Dwellings to get the full picture. Read about MBA, how homeowners faired in regards to TRCC and what happened to the homeowners. Read as much as you can. I agree with the Sunset Advisory Commission, abolish TRCC. How about laws that will protect consumers if builders do not act ethically?
How about that Home Lemon Law that was filed last session? Why not file that bill again instead of wasting time and money with TRCC?
Also I would suggest people go to Dr. Richard Alderman's sight peopleslawyer.net and click on Fight Mandatory Binding Arbitration. There is a bill filed in Congress now called the MBA FAirness Act of 2007. Do your due diligence.

 
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