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Home Lemon Law Gets Support From Elected Officials
Friday, 22 March 2013

Bills may protect homebuyers
Under the legislation, known as the home lemon law, if a problem covered under the home warranty isn't remedied in three attempts, the homebuilder must replace the house or accept its return and refund the purchase price and closing costs. But (Mayor) says the problem goes beyond the consumer. The defects cause homes to lose value, which means less revenue for the city, county, school districts and state.“We have to raise taxes on everyone because of our homes' depreciating value,” she said. “We had to raise taxes this year just to maintain the same amount of taxes although we're growing at such a high rate.” The legislative push has received local support form the Bexar County commissioners, who voted to back the initiative last week, said County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Bills may protect homebuyers
 
By Valentino Lucio, Staff Writer

State lawmakers have filed four bills that they say aim to protect new home buyers.

Home Owners for Better Building, a consumer advocacy group, and the city of Cibolo are spearheading the effort.

Democratic Reps. Joe Farias of San Antonio and Lon Burnam of Fort Worth co-authored a bill designed to protect military veterans who buy defective homes. Under the legislation, known as the home lemon law, if a problem covered under the home warranty isn't remedied in three attempts, the homebuilder must replace the house or accept its return and refund the purchase price and closing costs.

It also would provide protection related to mold contamination.

Originally, the bill was worded to protect all consumers, but Farias said the measure would have been too difficult to get through the Legislature.

“We have to look at legislation that at least we can get into the books and then build on it later on,” he said. “I don't even know if we'll get this bill to the floor. But I'm committed to helping our veterans, and that's my whole intent: to try to protect our veterans.”

Advocates hope to get a committee substitute bill filed that would cover all consumers, not just veterans, said Cibolo Mayor Jennifer Hartman.

Another bill Burnam filed would rule out binding arbitration clauses — for disputes between homebuilders and buyers — in contract form required by the Texas Real Estate Commission.

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, filed two home buyer protection bills, including one that would provide purchasers with construction documents such as blueprints. The other requires a homebuilder to disclose any defects a home might have when it attempts to resell a home.

All four bills have been referred to the House Business and Industry Committee.

The Texas Residential Construction Commission, the state agency that oversaw the industry, was dissolved a few years ago. Although the commission had its detractors, another regulatory agency never replaced it. There are home warranties in place for home buyers to use, but Hartman said not all issues are covered.

She said she decided to help lead the charge after dozens of homeowners in two Cibolo neighborhoods started voicing concerns about cracked foundations, busted plumbing, collapsed driveways and leaky roofs. Hartman added that she also has experienced foundation issues at her home.

While homeowners there have relied on their warranties and had their homes repaired on several occasions, some maintain that the problems are never entirely resolved.

But Hartman says the problem goes beyond the consumer. The defects cause homes to lose value, which means less revenue for the city, county, school districts and state.

“We have to raise taxes on everyone because of our homes' depreciating value,” she said. “We had to raise taxes this year just to maintain the same amount of taxes although we're growing at such a high rate.”

The legislative push has received local support form the Bexar County commissioners, who voted to back the initiative last week, said County Judge Nelson Wolff.

The city of San Antonio is reviewing the bills, and the City Council could take action early next month, said Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras.

Despite the support, the effort will encounter staunch opposition from homebuilder lobbies with deep pockets.

The Texas Association of Builders has already reached out to the authors and other representatives to discuss its opposition to the legislation, said Scott Norman, the organization's executive director.

“Homes can be repaired,” he said. “And rarely, if ever, does the cost of a construction defect begin to approach the value of the home.

“Builders are responsible for their work. And if there is a home that has construction defects, there is a process under the law and a requirement on builders to repair those houses.”

The Greater San Antonio Builders Association will battle locally, having already submitted a letter of opposition to the city. In the letter, the group said implementing such laws would cause builders to increase the overall sales price of homes to cover the added costs of potential home buybacks.

Although he called the bills harmful to homebuilders, GSABA President Kyle Lindsey said he sympathizes with homeowners who encounter defects with their houses.

“I can appreciate where that homebuyer is coming from,” he said. “I mean, not knowing anything about it and having those issues after making that kind of investment is huge.”

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