The agency that oversees home building in Texas will be dismantled over the next 14 months under a plan announced Friday.
But it will be business as usual for builders and homeowners dealing with the Texas Residential Construction Commission until Aug. 31.
After that, the agency starts a yearlong wind down of its operations.
The TRCC is outlining its demise after lawmakers did not act to save the beleaguered agency from the state's sunset process.
It will close its doors Aug. 31, 2010.
Under the plan:
- New homes and projects completed by Aug. 31 must be registered with the agency.
- Home inspection requests will be accepted through August from homeowners or builders who are at odds over construction issues.
- The agency will process those complaints through Aug. 31, 2010.
- Builder registrations and renewal registration applications will be accepted through Aug. 31, but will be prorated.
The 5-year-old TRCC initially was billed as a way to regulate home building and to create a way for homeowners and builders to resolve disputes out of court. But it had little enforcement authority.
A 2006 audit from the Texas comptroller's office branded the agency a paper tiger and said it shielded builders from responsibility.
The Sunset Advisory Commission staff last year recommended abolishing the agency, in part because of the inability of the agency to force builders to repair shoddy construction work. Homeowners were forced to go through the agency before going to court, but didn't trust it, the staff report said. No other regulatory agency has a program with such a potentially devastating effect on consumers' ability to seek their own remedies, it said.
In September, Texas reverts to the pre-TRCC law, the Residential Construction Liability Act, which limited damages homeowners could seek and gave builders the right to repair poor construction.
Ned Muñoz, vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel for the Texas Association of Builders, said a bill passed this session will allow counties to enforce building codes and to conduct home inspections in unincorporated areas something that will help regulation in the absence of TRCC. I think that bill is an important thing to have passed in light of the TRCC's demise, he said. It benefits homeowners. It protects home builders to make sure someone who doesn't build to code won't undercut the industry.
Once the agency closes, TRCC spokeswoman Magelly Castiblanco said, it's still unclear where the agency's data and records will go. We had a staff meeting recently and that is a big question, she said.
The TRCC has about 200 cases pending.