Texas home buyers remain powerless against builders
Buying a home can be the most significant investment in your life. It is also often the most valuable asset in an estate. When a buyer makes a down payment and takes out a huge loan to purchase a new home, they place a trust in the builder. Most of us are not construction experts and even an inspector we hire is unlikely to find all potential defects in an inspection lasting only a few hours. In most states, a purchaser has a remedy to sue a builder for shoddy construction. That remedy was yanked in Texas in 2003 as part of the "tort reform" movement pushed by Governor Rick Perry. A group of home builders, led by mega-donor Bob Perry, convinced (with plenty of campaign cash) the Texas Legislature to establish the Texas Residential Construction Commission. In a sales pitch that would have made Orwell cringe, the homebuilders touted the commission as an added layer of protection for home buyers. Of course, it really was protection for the builders. Amazingly, the legislation was written by the Senior Vice President of Bob Perry Homes, John Krugh, who was later appointed to the Commission. The TRCC legislation stripped legal remedies from consumers and forced them to seek relief from an essentially powerless commission controlled by the industry. The horrors of the commission have been well documented. The staff of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission recommended last year that the Legislature abolish the TRCC. However that appears unlikely, as this Houston Chronicle article details:
After numerous consumer complaints that the TRCC is little more than an industry lapdog, the agency now is under sunset review, fighting for its continued existence. Legislation up for a hearing before the House Business and Industry Committee would keep the agency open for another four years but would make it more responsive to consumer complaints, sponsors say. But if Perry’s money is a factor, consider this: Ten of the 11 members on the panel have received a collective $324,500 from Perry during their legislative careers. Leading the pack are Reps. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, $115,000; Sid Miller , R-Stephenville, $91,500; Kirk England, D-Grand Prairie, $47,500; and Wayne Christian , R-Center, $31,500. You may recall that the staff of the Sunset Advisory Commission recommended last year that the Legislature abolish the TRCC. But the commission, most of whose members are legislators, voted to keep the TRCC in business while making it more consumer friendly. The 10 lawmakers on the Sunset Commission (a separate group from today’s committee) had received $486,000 in political donations from Perry. “We’re supportive of the intent of the TRCC, which is to improve regulation of home builders and protect consumers,” Perry spokesman Anthony Holm said.
Any doubt that Bob Perry will continue to get his way on this issue? Readers of this blog in Texas should ask their legislators if they voted for the TRCC in 2003 and if they support its continued existence. Ironically, buyers of used homes still have legal remedies against sellers who fail to disclose defects. Furthermore, the TRCC only applies to residential, not commercial, construction. You can contact a North Texas construction defect lawyer if you are the victim of a failure to disclose or of shoddy construction.