San Antonio Express-News
Carlos Guerra: In Austin, Just Who Is Watching Out For Texas Homeowners?
A study released Monday by a campaign finance reform group and three homeowner groups underscores why Texas' pay-to-play politics must be stopped. The damning report by Homeowners for Better Building, Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings, Take Back Your Rights and Campaigns for People is appropriately titled: "Big Money and Shoddy Construction: Texas Homeowners Left Out In the Cold."
Carlos Guerra In Austin, Just Who Is Watching Out For Texas Homeowners?
San Antonio Express-News
A study released Monday by a campaign finance reform group and three homeowner groups underscores why Texas' pay-to-play politics must be stopped.
The damning report by Homeowners for Better Building, Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings, Take Back Your Rights and Campaigns for People is appropriately titled: "Big Money and Shoddy Construction: Texas Homeowners Left Out In the Cold."
It documents how homebuilders dropped $8.9 million on Texas politicos from 2001 through 2004, $1 million of it to the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker, and $238,450 to the Legislature's committee members charged with watching out for homeowners. And it details the amazing return they got for it.
One bill that sailed quietly to passage in 2003 was House Bill 730.
The bill's official analysis states that since "the lack of state performance standards for residential construction in Texas and case law makes it difficult for homeowners and homebuilders to resolve (disputes) without costly and time-consuming litigation," HB 730, "creates the Texas Residential Construction Commission Act, adopts performance standards for residential construction and establish(es) a state-sponsored inspection and dispute resolution process that assists consumers in resolving (disputes with) homebuilders."
But the bill really abolishes the "implied warranty of good and workman-like construction" afforded by common law and replaces it with an extremely limited, state-mandated warranty that is enforced through a labyrinthine complaint process managed by a commission controlled by builders.
Unless a homebuyer is sharp enough to contract for additional protections, he or she will get a warranty that protects them for only a year on workmanship and materials, two years on plumbing, electrical and heating and air conditioning and 10 years on major structural components.
Problems that go undiscovered during those periods will be the buyer's, but even those detected in time cannot be taken to the courts or even arbitration without first navigating long, statutory delays.
A homeowner must give the builders 30 days notice before filing a complaint. Then, he or she must pay $350 to $650 to the Texas Residential Construction Commission to file the protest.
If TRCC determines that it is an "eligible" complaint, it will take five days to name a state inspector, who has 15 to 50 days to conduct an inspection and file a report.
If the homeowner disputes the TRCC inspector's finding, he or she has 15 days to appeal to the TRCC, which named the inspector. That kicks off another 25-day wait for a decision to be rendered, and three days before it is mailed out.
If TRCC finds merit in the complaint, at least three months are provided for the parties to agree on repairs; not until they are finished may homeowners seek further relief through arbitration or in court.
And who did Gov. Rick Perry name to this commission to protect homeowners? The chairman owns an abstract and title company, the vice chairman owns a construction firm and the secretary manages a construction engineering business.
The other committee members are the senior vice president and corporate counsel of Texas' largest homebuilder, the vice president of another large homebuilder, a custom home building contractor, a construction manager and a professional arbitrator.
But relax. I have no doubt that they are all homeowners, like the regular folk they are protecting!