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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part III)

Welcome to the third installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 24 Hours Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with Tanya's story.
We are owners of a home in Kirkland and are involved now in building a home on Clyde Hill. Two years ago, we were one of those unfortunate families whose home was gift wrapped in plastic while we repaired the hundreds of thousands of dollars in water damage due to shoddy construction. A few years earlier, we had contracted with a local builder to build a new home for us in Kirkland. We put every dollar we had into that house.

From the day we moved into it, water started raining in. Windows leaked, the roof leaked, the wood siding leaked, and the stucco leaked. We tried for several years to work with the builder, but he could never plug all the holes.

At some point, he just wouldn't come back, and of course, we had no confidence left in him anyway. When we demanded he provide some compensation, his insurance company hired lawyers and that began a more than two year battle. They forced depositions and extensive discovery of witnesses.

They sued subcontractors, and tried to blame everyone else but the original builder. For us, it was two years of living in a leaking, moldy, wet house and then another year when we had to move out during repairs.

After obtaining a partial settlement with the builder, we began repairs. They proved to be even more challenging than we had anticipated. There was so much damage and so little quality work to save that we should have torn it down and started over.

The problem is, you don't know that when you start, so you assume you have a decent house that just needs to be fixed. Instead, we spent over $400,000 to repair the house, which was more than the builder spent to build it just a few years earlier.

Amazingly, one of the builder's defenses in the lawsuit was that the builder hadn't breached his contract. They argued, apparently with some conviction, that the builder hadn't actually promised to build a "leak-proof" house.

The contract didn't say it had to be waterproof, that the roof wouldn't link, that the floors wouldn't warp, and therefore those problems weren't breaches of the contract. We thought a builder had to build a home that serves as a home, a dry shelter. It's crazy in Washington that there is no law that says a builder has to build a watertight house.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

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