TRCC, builder protection agency, lives another day

Posted in 81st Legislature, Commentary, Good Stuff, HD-52, Money In Politics, The Lege, Williamson County at 10:37 am by wcnews

HB 2295 which would continue the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) made it over the first hurdle in the house yesterday. Bay Area Houston had this analysis, Texas House saves Bob Perry’s Commission:

Thanks to the efforts by State Representatives Liebowitz, Farrar, Coleman, Maldonado, and Dunnam for passing amendments that will bring some sense of sanity to the Texas Residential Construction Commission.

And Bob Perry thanks the efforts of Representative McClendon, Deshotel, and Ritter, all Democrats for working to save his failed Commission from abolishment.

The bill moves to the Senate. The amendments will remove the cost of the inspection program which was $250 or $350. This is good for the consumer. Also all arbitrations must be held in the county where the home resides. And Maldonado’s amendment requires a statement alerting homebuyers that they are giving up their rights to the Constitution of the United States if they decide to accept arbitration. (in the past at Senate hearings the builders claimed this was against the Federal Arbitration Act. I guess it isn’t afterall.) This is also good for the consumer.

Ritters amendment reduced the warranty for A/C, heating, and electricity from 4 to 2 years. Not good.

Richard Whittaker at the AusChron has this analysis from yesterday’s debate:

The agency is generally regarded as a complete mess: Not powerful enough to be truly regulatory, but using its mediation process means homeowners are effectively precluded from suing their home builder. The Sunset review called its industry oversight “fundamentally flawed [and it] does more harm than good.” Ouch.

Critics say it’s nothing more than a way for the building industry to stop home owners suing them for shoddy work. The regular claim is that the original legislation setting it up was written by and for Republican sugar daddy and building tycoon Bob Perry. How close is the relationship? House Democratic Caucus Chair Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, explained, “A very prominent home builder, his legal council is a member of the commission.” Gee, who could that be?

Bill authorRep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, was optimistic, calling HB2295 “not a bill the builders love.” But there was still a torrent of floor amendments: Most important may be two by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, which put the agency back in partial Sunset Review in 2013, just to check how it’s complying with legislation from this and the next session.

TRCC is a bug-bear for Rep. Diana Maldonado, D-Round Rock, who made reforming it a part of her election platform. She added her own amendment requiring that homeowners be fully informed that signing an arbitration agreement means they’re signing away their right to sue (no hiding that info in the small print.) “I don’t think that had been disclosed before,” she said. The final intent of the bill, she added, was “a consumer friendly-bill […] and I think we’re achieving that through the amendments.”

This commission should be abolished but if it must continue at least has been given some teeth, so that it may, finally be able to regulate. It’s key to remember that without the election of Rep. Maldonado last year this kind of accountability for citizens in Williamson County would have been much less likely.

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