As we reported earlier this month , the house buyers' bill of rights legislation—sponsored by Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue, Redmond) this year—was in jeopardy.
It's official now. For the third year in a row, the bill is dead. (To read the whole tortured story click on the link above.)
And to read an angry press release from consumer advocates at WashPIRG follow the jump.
BUILDING INDUSTRY STOPS HOME OWNERS RIGHTS BILL FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR
OLYMPIA - Homeowners and consumers rights groups today lamented the state Legislature’s failure to pass legislation that would protect new homeowners from shoddy construction for the third year in a row.
“New homeowners in this state don’t have the law at their back when dealing with poor construction or unscrupulous builders,” said WashPIRG Consumer Advocate Blair Anundson, “The Legislature had the opportunity again this year to pass a bill that will protect homeowners and boost consumer confidence, but instead, special interest groups like the Building Industry Association of Washington won out.”
“Although it is too late to alter the outcome of our construction misadventure, Washington homeowners need regulatory changes, including improved, non-waivable warranties, which will protect new homeowners & those undertaking substantial remodels from financially devastating experiences such as ours,” said home owner Jayne Freitag-Koontz.
Three separate bills were introduced this year: Senator Rodney Tom’s SB 5895, Representative Brendan Williams’ HB 1045, and Representative Larry Springer’s HB 1393. Each bill offered a similar approach to tackling the problem of faulty home construction, with minor variations.
There is currently no statutory warranty protecting homes in Washington State. Instead, Washington courts have provided a warranty of habitability that offers only first buyers protection against major damage. This warranty provides no protection against problems such as water intrusion, cracks in walls, or leaky windows. Further, second buyers get no protection at all.
To make matters worse, builders typically require homeowners to waive this warranty as a condition of buying a home. Over the past ten years, purchase contracts waived all warranties and substituted very damaging provisions that put all the costs for repairs on the unsuspecting homebuyers. Some builders “offered” third party warranties that were worse than no warranties at all.
"When I bought my new home I had no idea the warranty that came with it provided less coverage than that of state law,” stated Olympia area homeowner Karen Veldheer. “It has been my experience that builders want these warranties because they provide more protection for them than for the homeowner."
The last of the three bills to die was Representative Springer’s E2SHB 1393. The bill passed out of the House in March, passed through the necessary Senate committees rapidly, and was expected to receive a vote on the Senate before today’s deadline. Unfortunately, Senator Haugen (D-10th) introduced an amendment that threatened to gut all of the bill’s strong provisions, including the statutory warranty.
Several Senators changed positions, siding with Senator Haugen on the anti-consumer amendment and forcing the bill’s primary Senate champion, Senator Rodney Tom (D-48th) to halt efforts to bring the bill to a vote. While this marks the third consecutive year that the Legislature has failed to pass this bill, this is the first year that the state Senate has killed the legislation.
“It’s unfortunate that opponents of this critical legislation spent so much time and energy trying to ensure that nothing would pass,” said Northwest Progressive Institute Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve. “We haven’t been able to find any homeowners who agree with the BIAW that it is okay that builders in Washington State are not held accountable to any standards for quality construction.”
Villeneuve noted that many lawmakers appear to be completely out of touch with the people of Washington State on this issue.
“Homeowners are sick and tired of having to come back year after year to explain why we need this legislation, only to see the Legislature deadlock because of the BIAW’s influence.”
“We are determined to continue working on an even stronger bill and build public support for decisive action in the 2010 legislative session,” Villeneuve added.