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Austin-Statesman - Report: Construction agency doesn't help consumers
Tuesday, 24 January 2006
Comptroller says commission a roadblock instead of a resource
A state agency that is supposed to help homeowners and builders resolve disputes is a toothless, time-consuming barrier for consumers and should be shut down, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said Monday.  In a report requested by a legislator, Strayhorn said the Texas Residential Construction Commission does not resolve conflicts between the two parties because it cannot force builders to make repairs... "This agency imposes costly and bureaucratic roadblocks for homeowners left out in the cold by shabby construction and a commission dominated by builders," Strayhorn said.

Report: Construction agency doesn't help consumers
Comptroller says commission a roadblock instead of a resource.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A state agency that is supposed to help homeowners and builders resolve disputes is a toothless, time-consuming barrier for consumers and should be shut down, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said Monday.

In a report requested by a legislator, Strayhorn said the Texas Residential Construction Commission does not resolve conflicts between the two parties because it cannot force builders to make repairs.

 
Laura Skelding
AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The agency's commissioners were appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, whom Strayhorn, running as an independent, hopes to defeat in November's gubernatorial election.

Agency Executive Director Duane Waddill said newly created rules will allow the commission to revoke the registrations of recalcitrant builders.

"Her review is based on the old process," Waddill said, although he added that he looks forward to using the report to improve the agency.

The Legislature created the commission in 2003, in part at the request of builders hoping to reduce lawsuits.

A homeowner who finds defects after construction that are not fixed within 30 days can ask the commission to appoint an inspector to check the home. A homeowner requesting that review must pay a $250 fee, which is reimbursed if the inspector's report supports the homeowner's allegations.

The inspector then issues a report that cannot require repairs but can be used later in arbitration or lawsuits.

State Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, requested Strayhorn's report. House State Affairs Committee Chairman David Swinford, R-Dumas, has said Strayhorn was overstepping her bounds and asked Attorney General Greg Abbott in December whether Strayhorn had authority to make the report. Abbott has not ruled on the matter.

Strayhorn surveyed the 257 people who had used the resolution process through October and received 102 responses. She said 86 percent of respondents said builders failed to fix construction defects in their homes after going through the resolution process. She also said that 45 percent reported being unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the way the commission handled the process and that 49 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied.

Strayhorn also said:

• The agency's registration process for builders does not guarantee or promote good building practices.

• Engineering and architectural experts at Texas Tech University and the University of Texas said the standards that third-party inspectors use are a welcome addition but are "overly lenient and in need of fine-tuning." A Texas A&M University professor who oversaw the development of the commission's draft standards said most of them exceed the standards for Federal Housing Administration programs.

• All of the agency's commissioners have ties to the construction industry.

Waddill said a new process will require builders whose work has defects to say how they will fix those defects. The builder then must submit another report after the problems are fixed. The commission will check with the homeowner, and if the problem remains unfixed, he said, the agency can revoke the builder's registration. The agency now can refer unregistered builders to Abbott's office for possible penalties.

Jay Dyer of the Texas Association of Builders said: "Regardless of whether there is a finding of a defect, the customer can still pursue legal options or legal remedies that the customer would have had in the absence of this commission."

Waddill said Monday afternoon that he had just received the report and was drafting a formal response. Dyer also said he had little time to review it but spotted at least one inaccuracy.

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http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/01/24trcc.html

 
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