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Thread: TRCC and the Sunset Commission
12-24-2008, 06:43 PM #1
TRCC and the Sunset Commission
Houston Chronicle Editorial
Texas lawmakers flush with building industry contributions vote to extend life of fatally flawed TRCC
Dec. 19, 2008
In disregarding a recommendation of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission staff to dismantle the Texas Residential Construction Commission, the elected members of the Sunset Commission's governing board have served their political interests at the expense of constituents.
Houston home builder Bob Perry and other industry representatives have given nearly a half million dollars in campaign contributions to 10 lawmakers on the Sunset Commission, with the bulk of the money going to six Republicans. The TRCC was created in 2003 via a law drafted by Perry's corporate lawyer, who then was appointed to the TRCC by Governor Rick Perry, no relation to the builder but also a recipient of his campaign largesse. The TRCC board is dominated by members with building industry ties.
Homeowners with complaints about problems with construction work are required to submit their grievances to an inspection and mediation process before they can go to court. A report issued by the Sunset Commission staff last month found that instead of cracking down on unscrupulous and unqualified builders, the agency has actually prevented consumers from seeking legal redress.
According to the report, the TRCC from its inception was never meant to regulate the homebuilding industry. It does not license builders, and those registering with the commission are not required to demonstrate either professional competence or financial responsibility. Other trades licensed by the state such as electricians and plumbers are subject to such scrutiny.
Even if an inspection affirms homeowner complaints, the TRCC has no real power to force a builder to make repairs. "Because homeowners must submit to this process before they may seek remedies in court," states the report summary, "those who fail to satisfy its requirements either out of confusion or frustration lose their access to court. No other regulatory agency has a program with such a potentially devastating effect on consumers' ability to seek their own remedies."
The average time to process a homeowner's inspection request is 147 days, and can take as long as 20 months. Based on its own reports, since the creation of the TRCC only 12 percent of all closed inspections have resulted in a satisfactory offer of repair. The remaining 88 percent have resulted in legal action by one party or another, the very outcome that the agency was supposed to prevent.
There are better options for regulating homebuilders and protecting consumers. More than 30 states license residential construction companies, require competency exams, proof of financial solvency, and bonding and liability insurance. Some have dispute resolution programs that include the ability to enforce judgements.
The Sunset Commission staff concluded that the TRCC is too flawed to repair and "without true regulation designed to ensure public protection," Texans are better served without it. We wholeheartedly agree and hope that in the coming legislative session, lawmakers will vote to shutter this sham of a commission.
Similar Threads:Jim Luttrall
12-25-2008, 06:39 AM #2
Re: TRCC and the Sunset Commission
Similar editotial from the Austin American Statesmans newspaper last week:
Construction panel lacks effective power
The Texas Residential Construction Commission is supposed to help homeowners with defective new homes but is ineffective and makes it harder for those with legitimate complaints to get resolution.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Despite staff advice, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission this week decided not to recommend to the Legislature that it abolish the Texas Residential Construction Commission. The Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13, can still scrap it and let careless or shoddy homebuilders take their chances before a judge or jury. Otherwise, it should make sure the construction commission does a better job for consumers.
The Sunset staff in August recommended that the construction commission be abolished because it and the law that created it were so badly designed and built that it was "easy for even problem builders to stay in business."
The law, passed in 2003, went easy on problem builders because its principal purpose from the start wasn't to protect or help aggrieved buyers of defective new homes but to give homebuilders a legal shelter from lawsuits.
In essence, the law forced the buyer of a new home who had unresolved complaints about a defect to go through a new government bureaucracy, the construction commission, to resolve disputes before any lawsuit could be filed. The rationale was that the commission could get the dispute settled far quicker than any lawsuit and at less cost to everyone involved.
And had it worked that way, the commission could in fact be useful, both to consumers and that majority of homebuilders who are diligent about correcting defects in their new homes.
But as the Sunset staff found, even after the Legislature tried to strengthen the construction commission's powers in 2005, it "still has no real power to require builders to make needed repairs."
Rather than dump the construction commission, the Sunset Commission — made up of 10 legislators and two public members — decided this week to recommend that the Legislature give homeowners the right to go to court if it doesn't settle a complaint within 105 days. It also voted to give the construction commission greater authority to revoke or suspend a builder's license.
Why not follow the staff recommendation? A San Antonio Express-News report this week provided an interesting clue: The 10 lawmakers on the Sunset commission have collected at least half a million dollars from homebuilders in campaign contributions since 2000 — $486,000 of it from Bob Perry, a Houston-based homebuilder.
The Texas Association of Builders, which wants to avoid the courts, endorsed the Sunset Commission's recommendations.
If the Legislature keeps the construction commission, it should at least adopt the recommendations to force it to act, in a timely way, on a homeowner's complaint. Just as important, legislators should hold the commission's management strictly accountable for applying the law fairly to homeowners and homebuilders alike and provide the commission enough funding to ensure sufficient staff to do so.
But aggrieved homeowners who can't get help from the construction commission should be able to go to court easily and quickly if a recalcitrant homebuilder won't cooperate.
Does anyone see the running theme here?
12-25-2008, 08:30 AM #3
Re: TRCC and the Sunset CommissionDoes anyone see the running theme here?
12-25-2008, 11:02 AM #4
Re: TRCC and the Sunset Commission
The crooks in Illinois (or Washington for that matter) politics simply cannot hold a candle to those in Austin. Never have and never will.
Lying ass Republican rip-off artists that spawn the likes of George W. Bush, Tom Delay . . . the list is too long for the available bandwidth.
Pay to play may not have originated in Texas, but it has come into full bloom here.
And, please, Republicans out there, don't bother with you lame BS commentary attempting to explain away or assuage your guilty feelings over the ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL FAILURE of your party to govern the country responsibly over, at least, the past eight years. It will fall on deaf ears. I can see the results in my dwindling bank account.
12-25-2008, 12:04 PM #5
Re: TRCC and the Sunset Commission
Although I may agree with you I must add. I am neither a republican or a democrat. Truth of the matter is, we were not allowed to fall into a proper recession as needed back in 2000. By trying not to allow that to happen (both dems and rep) we are now in a correction period that will eventually be twice as bad as it would have been in the dot com bust.
Thats all I have to say. It still sucks no matter what the reason. Yes, my bank account (is there one) has suffered tremendously and my fear is it will get much worse before it gets better.
The arrogance of some will be destroyed once this is over. If it makes anyone feel better, that is a good thing. The world is being brought to its knees and opening up many eyes. Mine included.
I now take a break from my Christmas to add my 1/2 cents worth.
I wish all a very Merry Christmas and a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
May the big man above bless us all and grant us all a short recovery.