FRISCO ENTERPRISE - Frisco Top Stories
Group aims to remodel city charter
The largest single investment most people make in their lifetimes is the purchase of a new home. It is part of the American dream. For Dr. David and Carol Becka of Frisco, however, that dream turned into what they described as a nightmare as the new custom home they built in Starwood became a ""money pit"" of problems. They blame shoddy construction and plumbing problems for rendering their ""dream home"" uninhabitable, and appeared before the Frisco City Council last year to share their fears over what they said was black mold that grew in the damp environment caused by water leaks in the house that began shortly before they closed on the home in June 1998
Frisco Top Stories
By Mike Raye , Staff Writer
Group aims to remodel city charter
The largest single investment most people make in their lifetimes is the purchase of a new home. It is part of the American dream.
For Dr. David and Carol Becka of Frisco, however, that dream turned into what they described as a nightmare as the new custom home they built in Starwood became a "money pit" of problems. They blame shoddy construction and plumbing problems for rendering their "dream home" uninhabitable, and appeared before the Frisco City Council last year to share their fears over what they said was black mold that grew in the damp environment caused by water leaks in the house that began shortly before they closed on the home in June 1998.
The Beckas filed a lawsuit in September 2003 against their homebuilder, Huntington Homes, in Collin County's 401st District Court, claiming negligence, breach of contract, breach of warranty and damages. Huntington offered to buy back their home in August 2003, but the parties, records show, did not agree upon the appraised value. The family sought damages and the "fair market" value for their home and the case is in arbitration. According to the court records of the case, a hearing is scheduled in Judge Mark Rusch's court Sept. 9.
Other residents in the Starwood neighborhood have said they had no problems with Huntington, finding them receptive to problem solving to the point of coming out seven years after the purchase to fix a problem.
The Beckas posted the details of their home buying experience and a transcript of the lawsuit on the Internet, along with links to consumer advocacy groups as a resource for others. The web site, "Huntingtonof
problems.com," included test results from mold samples independently collected at the home, and the URL, or web address left no doubt how they felt about the matter.
In May, the couple, with daughter Carolyn, formed a political action committee and a grass-roots campaign of some like-minded Frisco residents called "Take Back Your Rights" (TBYR), with a stated goal of amending the Frisco City Charter to include provisions to protect future homebuyers.
"This is a question of taking back consumer rights," Dr. Becka said through a statement issued with the group's launch. "There is something wrong when the biggest purchase of a lifetime comes with the least amount of consumer protection."
The Beckas have created a new website, takebackyourrights.com, created by a Frisco web designer and featuring American icons like the bald eagle and the Declaration of Independence. Members of the Becka family and compatriots recently appeared at Frisco Freedom Fest July 4 and National Night Out Aug. 3, cruising the neighborhoods in a customized blue Chrysler PT Cruiser emblazoned with a patriotic logo, passing out pamphlets and American flag decals. At one block party in the Preston Vineyard subdivision, Carolyn Becka explained to neighbors the group was appealing to the individual homeowner and prospective homebuyers to sign a petition calling for a City Charter amendment, with hopes the issue could land on the November ballot.
According to Section 11.06 of the City Charter, the group must collect signatures representing five percent of Frisco's qualified voters or 20,000 people, "whichever is less." Becka said the group needed to collect 1,700 signatures "in just a short period of time."
A Frisco official said after a petition is filed, the city has 30 days to validate signatures. After that, if the requirements for number are met, it must call an election within 62 days.
According to a national homebuyers' advocacy group based in San Antonio, Homeowners for Better Building, the Becka group's petition drive is the first of its kind in the country.
In the last elections held in the city, for the Frisco ISD Board of Trustees in May, the Collin County Elections Department counted some 35,823 registered voters in the district, for example. No numbers of voters registered for this fall's election in November were readily available.
"These proposed amendments pertain to certain aspects of new home purchases," reads the TBYR web site. "For example, TBYR wants to ensure that new homebuyers are as informed about their purchase as possible. TBYR also believes that the new homebuilders in Frisco should be required to have a surety bond on file with the city to help protect the homebuyer in the event of major issues or problems with their new house."
TBYR's amendments would require new homebuilders in Frisco to file certain paperwork with the city and post a $2 million surety bond as a sort of "insurance policy" for homebuyers that would pay for damages resulting from shoddy construction.
The first amendment, called "Full disclosure with informed consent" would "give new home buyers a more complete and accurate explanation of issues they might face if they discover construction defects with their home." The disclosure requirement would attempt to decipher some legalese found on contracts by defining the concept of "binding arbitration", and advise new home buyers "they have a legal right to opt out of that part of a sales contract." The disclosure would require builders to file contracts with the city and give purchasers the right to review and, if in agreement with the terms, sign the contract before any money changes hands. The amendment would require builders to fully inform buyers of warranty limitations and their legal rights in a dispute.
"Once this charter amendment is made, Frisco residents would have a better understanding of the ins and outs of buying a home," reads the web site. "They would also be armed with knowledge that would enable them to modify their purchase contracts if they so desire."
The second amendment the group proposes, the $2 million surety bond, would "...provide procedures and principles for home construction and for the maintenance of the integrity of new homes... to assure homebuilder financial responsibility." The amendment would do this by modifying building permits, rules and regulations for new homes. After exhausting non-legal attempts to get repairs made, a homeowner could file against the bond for restitution.
"The timing to make these much needed changes is at a critical time in Frisco's growth," the web site reads. "In short, TBYR endeavors to look out for the rights of the new homebuyer in Frisco."
The last time changes were made to the City Charter was in May 2002, when Frisco voters voted on 19 revisions to the document. Before that, the Charter was last amended in 1987.