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Texas Homebuyer Protection Act, would require builders to buy back houses
Monday, 08 April 2013

Proposed ‘lemon law’ for new homes would only cover vets
The measure enjoys support among residents of Schertz and Cibolo, where foundation problems with dozens of relatively new homes — attributed largely to expansive soil — have caused heartaches for homeowners and headaches for municipal officials. Both cities have moved to strengthen their building codes. Cibolo Mayor Jennifer Hartman said her city has a high number of veterans but said the protections in HB 1887 should be expanded to cover all homeowners... She has successfully solicited support for the legislation from Guadalupe and Bexar County commissioners and from the Northeast Economic Partnership, a regional alliance of eight cities that includes Cibolo.

Proposed ‘lemon law’ for new homes would only cover vets
By Zeke MacCormack, Staff Writer
               
               Photo: Zeke MacCormack / San Antonio Express-News
Cibolo, where this home is being built, is one of the local cities calling for a Texas “lemon law” that would require the builder to buy back the home if major problems can't be remedied.

Proponents of a statewide lemon law for new houses have lowered their sights, pushing legislation limited to honorably discharged veterans whose homes are defective.

House Bill 1887, the Texas Veteran Homebuyer Protection Act, would require builders to buy back their homes at full price if major problems are reported within 10 years of the original purchase and cannot be remedied in three repair attempts.

Legislators in several previous sessions have declined to make Texas the first state in the nation with a lemon law on new homes. State Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio, who co-authored HB 1887, “felt that narrowing it to veterans would give it a better chance ... because there is a lot of opposition out there,” from the home-building industry, said his chief of staff, Julianna Gonzaba.

A hearing is set for Tuesday in the House Business and Industry Committee.

The measure enjoys support among residents of Schertz and Cibolo, where foundation problems with dozens of relatively new homes — attributed largely to expansive soil — have caused heartaches for homeowners and headaches for municipal officials.

Both cities have moved to strengthen their building codes. Cibolo Mayor Jennifer Hartman said her city has a high number of veterans but said the protections in HB 1887 should be expanded to cover all homeowners.

“The city's authority is limited. We're not a body that can deal with contractual issues between citizens and builders,” said Hartman, whose own home is among those with foundation problems.

She has successfully solicited support for the legislation from Guadalupe and Bexar County commissioners and from the Northeast Economic Partnership, a regional alliance of eight cities that includes Cibolo.

Schertz hasn't taken a position on it.

“There are some people who say a (lemon law) is needed and there are others who say, 'I don't want government involved in my transactions,” Schertz Mayor Michael Carpenter said.

The Texas Association of Builders is expected to oppose HB 1887. Scott Norman, its executive director, said a lemon law is unnecessary since 97 percent or more of new homes don't have major defects, and those that do can be repaired.

“State law provides that builders are responsible for up to 10 years for major issues affecting the habitability of the homes so, if there are defects, builders will fix the houses,” he said. “Mandating buybacks, we do not believe, is the best nor most cost-effective solution.”

The big question with any lemon law, Norman said, is who gets to decide if a home is so defective that it cannot be fixed.

“It can't just be the homeowners' choice,” he said. “Right now, the civil justice system decides that, if there is an unresolved warranty matter, either through the courts or arbitration.”

His organization also is fighting three other housing-related bills this year.

• House Bill 2526 would require builders of new homes to provide buyers copies of construction documents, including blueprints and specifications.

• House Bill 2527 would require builders who had repurchased homes because of defects to disclose that to a subsequent buyer, along with the nature of any remediation. Norman contends such disclosure is already required.

• House Bill 3736 would allow homebuyers to use contracts that don't require disputes with the builder to go to binding arbitration.

Home-sales contracts commonly contain binding arbitration requirements and “homeowners don't stand a chance” with them, said Janet Ahmad of the San Antonio-based group Homeowners for Better Building.

“The arbitrators are beholden to the builders for their livelihood,” she said.

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Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Consumer-protection-bills-on-housing-face-uphill-4419323.php#ixzz2Pw590Oox


Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Consumer-protection-bills-on-housing-face-uphill-4419323.php#ixzz2Pw4oUeCM

 
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