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Monday, April 2, 2007

Oly E-Mail

posted by on April 2 at 11:54 AM

Okay, I’m trying not to get too obsessed or go too inside baseball, but here’s Rep. Brendan Williams (D-22, Olympia) last Thursday (in an e-mail to his caucus) predicting that Dem leadership was going to kill his homebuyers’ protections bill thanks to the BIAW.

From: Williams, Rep. Brendan Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2007 12:20 PM To: @HDC Members; @HDC Caucus Staff Subject: Please support Homeowners’ Bill of Rights! Importance: High

Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee passed ESSB 5550: The Homeowners’ Bill of Rights.

In our state there is no statutory warranty protection for new homes – 9 other states provide this. Nor is there any right of action for negligent construction, a far more substantive protection – 10 states provide this (and DC provides strict liability). And 14 states provide a more enhanced implied warranty of habitability than does Washington – in Washington your only guarantee with a brand new home (and you must be the original purchaser) is that the foundations supporting the new home are firm and secure and the home is safe for your intended purpose in living in it. It need not even be fully-constructed.

ESSB 5550 would grant statutory warranty protections to Washington homebuyers effective July 1, 2008. Prior to that date, the bill would commission a residential construction committee to study remedies available to consumers and report to the Legislature by December 31, 2007.

We need the hammer of substantive protection for this study to be meaningful, or BIAW will simply run out the clock. Yesterday they attempted to turn the bill into a study only, and their amendment revealed their sincerity about protecting consumers: They would have reduced the civilian representatives on the residential construction committee to 6 – with 4 of the 6 representing builders’ interests, one representing the insurance industry, and just one representing consumers.

This was farcical. But BIAW has treated this bill as comedy because they believe they can kill it in House Rules.

Consider the source when it comes to BIAW’s alarums about the effect ESSB 5550 would have on the construction industry. After all, they claimed women are “eradicating manly jobs”; denied global warming’s existence; denied the Puget Sound ecosystem is imperiled; lobbied for U.S. Attorney John McKay’s firing (now under Congressional investigation); orchestrated House floor attacks this session on tribes; etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Even Habitat for Humanity has been threatened over this bill!

Look at the facts: D.R. Horton is the nation’s largest homebuilder, and does business in the states that provide far more substantive protections to homebuyers. DR Horton is presently building a lot of homes in my 22nd Legislative District, too.

California provides statutory warranty protections, for example, and DR Horton has over 30,000 lots under development there. Of the statutory warranty states, DR Horton is building homes in all but Kentucky.

And BIAW would regard our allowing negligent construction claims as a “thermonuclear option” compared to statutory warranty protections. After all, attorneys could actually make money off of negligence (tort) claims. Yet, even in the states that provide negligent construction claims, DR Horton is building in Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, and Oregon. Evidently it must be profitable to do so. The company made over $1 billion in profit last year.

If protecting homebuyers would destroy the homebuilding industry why is DR Horton doing so well in states where homebuyers are protected? What does BIAW know that the nation’s most successful homebuilder does not?

Buying a home is life’s greatest investment, and those incurring 30-year mortgages should have at least some meaningful, guaranteed protection for the quality of their investment over the course of that indebtedness. There is no better “message bill” for the middle class than this bill. Let’s give hope to all of those dreaming of buying a home that their dream of homeownership will not turn into a nightmare. Please share your support for this bill with leadership.

Because a caucus member gave to BIAW a previous internal memo of mine on this issue, I am sending this as an e-mail to make it easier to forward to Tom McCabe. :)

Rep. Brendan W. Williams

RSS icon Comments


Rep. Williams is dead on. I'll respond to that challenge. First, I am absolutely floored at the number of people out there willing to vilify two of our chosen representatives (Weinstein and Williams) who are just trying to do the right thing for homeowners - give some basic rights! These guys aren't playing politics, they are trying to increase consumer protection not only for their constitutents, but all Washington homeowners.

The rights of single family homeowners in this state to pursue their builders for shoddy construction are extremely limited. First, you have to have a contract with your builder, which most new homeowners do not. Second, you have to have damages amounting to near collapse of your building or at least a serious threat to life or safety. 33 other states have better consumer protections for homeowners than Washington.

The FACT is that Frank Chopp killed a good bill for political reasons - to keep a good relationship with BIAW and other builders groups for the future - because BIAW is powerful. It is not about a single meal - at least one homeowners advocacy group raised money for Chopp's re-election thinking he supported homeowner rights. It's about the overwhelming disproprortionate amount of money that BIAW and other builders groups spend EVERY YEAR in Olympia - literally millions. Only the strongest of our representatives like Williams and Weinstein -- who believe more in representing their constituents than hoarding political capital -- are willing to make a stand against them.

Posted by MHawk | April 2, 2007 12:42 PM

BIAW = Biggest Idiots and Assholes in Washington

Posted by clown patrol | April 2, 2007 1:34 PM

Frank Chopp has GOT TO GO! Why have the majority if you are afraid to use it? This is NOT about how long Frank can retain the fuckin' Speaker's chair, this IS about how much progressive legislation we can pass. Josh, you live in the 43rd... Maybe you should run?

Posted by 43rd Dem | April 2, 2007 3:27 PM

Josh would come up 8th in a field of 8 if he ran. Not that he's a bad person, he's a great person, but it's hard to run here.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 2, 2007 4:16 PM

I'm a Chopp constituent, and I am furious that he killed this bill.

How could this avowedly liberal Dem kill legislation that gives home owners basic assurances that the house we just leveraged our souls for ain't a piece of crap? As Sen. Weinstein is fond of saying, one gets a better warranty in a new ($30) toaster than one does in a new (um, HALF MILLION DOLLAR) house.

Fraidy-Frank just rolled, plain and simple. This bill didn't need "further study." This bill needed to get out there and start helping redistribute the risk of shoddy construction where it belongs: on the builders.

This was a pure power move on the part of our state's Democratic House leadership, and it's not what the people wanted. Frank can go get his funding directly from BIAW next election. I'm done with him.

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