Sunset Report Says Texas Homebuilder Agency Should Go

August 21, 2008

The Texas Residential Construction Commission should be abolished because it is ineffective and frustrates homeowners trying to get builders to address defects in their homes, according to a state agency review.

Created in 2003, the agency does not have the trust of the consumers to protect them from unqualified builders, according to staff of the Sunset Review Commission, which reviews state agency performance and makes recommendations to lawmakers.

The creation of the commission was backed by homebuilders. It was praised by the industry for establishing standards and warranties for home construction, and for creating a process to resolve disputes between builders and buyers out of court.

Consumer groups have argued the agency did more to protect builders than consumers and limited homeowners’ legal recourse in disputes.

“We need to scrap it,” said Alex Winslow of Texas Watch. “Consumers need real protections against unscrupulous builders who build shoddy homes, and the TRCC has never provided homeowners with that kind of protection.”

Duane Waddill, executive director of the construction commission, defended the agency as one that resolves disputes by helping homeowners get their repairs done while keeping businesses from having to pay fines.

A statement released by the agency said it has stripped or denied the right to operate of nearly 500 builders and remodelers in Texas.

Waddill said the agency will draft a written response to the report to be given to lawmakers for the 2009 legislative session.

“We were created to help consumers and builders and remodelers to resolve differences. That’s what we’ve been doing,” Waddill said.

The sunset commission staff said the TRCC “was never meant to be a true regulatory agency with a clear mission of protecting the public.”

The agency administers the State Inspection Process, which is designed to resolve disputes between homeowners and builders before either party may pursue legal action.

The sunset report called it a lengthy and difficult process that frustrates homeowners. Despite recent attempts to strengthen the process with new penalties, the TRCC “still has no real power to require builders to make needed repairs,” the report said.

The Texas Association of Builders said abolishing the agency would be a step backward for homeowners if they are forced to file lengthy and costly lawsuits.

Abolishing the commission would throw homebuilding in Texas “back to a time when there was no regulation at all of the industry,” said Ron Connally, a homebuilder in Amarillo and vice president of the builder’s association.

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