Saturday, February 1, 2003
Colorado homeowners should be concerned about two bills before the state Legislature. The first, House Bill 1161, is designed to limit damages contractors and developers face as a result of faulty construction. Unfortunately, the bill goes beyond damage limits, putting in place barriers that could make it difficult for homeowners to get construction problems resolved quickly and fairly.
The second piece of legislation is Senate Bill 154, which would make it illegal for counties and municipalities to put sales price restrictions or rent controls on private residential property. The bill outlaws deed restrictions and could hinder badly needed affordable housing projects.
Neither bill is in the best interest of Colorado residents. Both should be defeated.
State Rep. Al White was one of the sponsors of House Bill 1161, which has won House approval. White said insurance premiums for builders have risen dramatically because of an increase in lawsuits. He said the "Construction Defect Reform Act," approved in 2001, opened the door to frivolous lawsuits seeking far too much in damages. Ultimately, he said, the added expense of increased insurance premiums and legal costs gets passed along to the homebuyers.
We don't disagree with lawmakers' efforts to limit the exposure builders face. But this bill goes too far. In fact, so much was added to the bill in committee that Rep. Mark Larson, R-Colorado Springs, one of the original sponsors of the legislation, voted against it and asked that his name be removed from the bill after it was approved. The changes in committee "basically threw out what I thought were all the homeowner's property rights," Larson said.
That's the crux of the problem with the bill. In their efforts to protect builders, lawmakers have stripped homeowners of legal remedies often necessary to get problems fixed. The bill sets strict time limits for discovering construction problems and bringing those problems to the builder's attention. Once a homeowner notifies a builder of construction defects, the homeowner can amend the list of defects only once more, meaning the homeowner may have no recourse for fixing problems that are uncovered long after construction is complete. The bill establishes a lengthy bureaucratic process for resolving construction disputes that seems more advantageous to the builder than the homeowner.
Given the amount of money spent on building a new home, a buyer should expect quality work. Buyers certainly don't need the state making it harder to ensure that quality.
In the Senate, Republican Mark Hillman's prohibiting municipalities from using deed restrictions could seriously affect affordable housing efforts in places like Steamboat Springs. In Steamboat, the city is using deed restrictions to ensure that 44 homes designated as affordable in the West End Village project remain affordable well into the future. The deed restrictions allow the city to preserve affordable housing options without having to continuously create new projects.
Hillman's bill would rob communities of an effective tool to address one of Colorado's most pressing problems. Surely, Hillman's colleagues in the Senate understand this and will reject his bill should it ever come to a vote.