Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Blog # 9 Homebuilder Reform Lobby Day -

April 9th, 2009

I met with HomeOwners for Better Building (H.O.B.B.) president Janet Ahmad concerning the State regulatory agency sunset process.  Several bills are coming up to abolish or reform the Texas Residential Construction Commission.  

From the HomeOwners for Better Building lobbying materials:

Reform is essential for the Texas Residential Construction Commission

The Sunset staff recently concluded that the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) is not only an unnecessary barrier to the resolution of disputes between homeowners and builders, but is also a stacked process that does more to protect the interests of the homebuilding industry than those of Texas taxpayers, homeowners, and consumers.  Three points from th Sunset staff report accurately summarize the situation with the TRCC:

"...Protecting practitioners is not the rationale for involving the owner of the State, nor is it the benchmark for evaluating te need for regulation.  rather, unless otherwise specified, the need for regulation centers on protecting the public."

:By not ensuring the competence and financial responsibility of builders in Texas, the regulations do not prevent unqualified persons from entering the field and thus are not designed to prevent problems from occurring."

"The overall regulatory approach to the residential construction industry contributes to a significant consumer concern about the commission.  Consumers see a State Inspection Process that is ineffective in fixing the identified construction defects.  They see a builder registration program that s not based on qualifications and cannot help prevent problems before they occur.  They see an enforcement process that cannot effectively sanction problem builders because of the shell game of naming a new designated agent.  Finally, if they opt out of an administrative process they feel has failed them, they see diminished access to the courts."

If the TRCC is not to be abolished, it must be substantially overhauled so that it may begin protecting Texas homeowners from unscrupulous builders.  The following reforms are absolutely essential if the TRCC is to become of use to Texas homeowners and thereby justify its continued existence:

1.  Make the state-sponsored inspection and dispute resolution process voluntary

2.  Institute meaningful standards for who can become a builder, including experience and bonding requirements.

3.  Create meaningful accountability so that bad builders are punished and all builders are deterred from taking advantage of homeowners.

4.  Improve the TRCC's reporting of bad builders so that prospective homeowners may see the number and type of complaints filed against all builders, just as is done on the Department of Insurance's website.


HB 1635 by Rep. Todd Smith - to abolish the TRCC

HB 311 by Rep. Leibowitz - Would remove all fees paid by the homeowner under the TRCC

HB 1653 by Rep. Veasey - Creates optional licensing for home builders

HB 2095 by Rep. Farrar - Removes all fees paid by homeowner under the TRCC, requires builders to carry a bond that protects the homeowner, creates mandatory experience requirements for builders, adds new grounds for disciplinary actin against bad builders.

HB 2896 by Rep. Leibowitz - Prohibits the inclusion of mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts for new homes unless the homeowner specifically requests it.

HB 3019 by Rep. Leibowitz - Requires builder of a new home to give buyer all of the building plans.

HB 3629 by Rep. Todd Smith - Changes the TRCC to a licensing agency, abolishes SIRP, requires bonding of builders, moves regulation of warranty companies to Texas Department of Insurance.

HB 3871 by Rep. Veasey - Creates a recovery fund for homeowners ad makes the executive commissioner of the TRCC a governor-appointed position.  Relating to the operation of the Texas Residential Construction Commission; providing an administrative penalty.  Creates reforms for qualifications, term limits and financial connections for the Commissioner and Commission board members.

HB 3182 "Lemon Law" by Rep. Sinfronia Thompson -  Relating to consumer protection for and remedies available to a homebuyer whose home does not comply with certain warranties; providing an administrative penalty.

For further information, check out the website

HomeOwners for Better Building

Janet Ahmad, President


Local Austin activism:

And, following the lobby training session, Allissa Chambers of Austinites Lobbying for Municipal Accountability (ALMA) and I attended the Austin City Council and Mayoral candidates forum at the Mexican American Cultural Center.  Later that day, in the early evening, we also attended the Environmental candidate forum held at City Council Chambers at City Hall.

State and local lobbying, all in one day!

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