Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

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

Welcome to the second 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: 25 Hours, 22 Minutes 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 Lela's story.
After buying an old home on Mercer Island, we decided to hire an architect and design a new home. With the architect's recommendation, we interviewed a number of experienced and reputable builders. Eventually we hired one that had built a lot of custom homes in the area. We began work in August 1999.

Several times after we had moved in, we discovered water intrusion problems in the garage. Twice the builder sent the roofer out to patch things, but every year the problem returned. Five years after moving in, we decided to hire an inspector to find out the cause of the problem and inspect for similar problems elsewhere. This inspection led to the following discoveries:

  1. The builder left out nearly every structural requirement shown in the plans. These omissions included failure to build double sided plywood walls to create lateral stability for the house. He installed some metal hold downs in some places, but never connected them.In other places, he put them in place but never attached them. Everywhere we looked, the builder had failed to comply with the structural plans.
  2. Just as shocking, the special structural engineer required by the City of Mercer Island to inspect the house missed all of these omissions. So did the City's building inspector.
  3. The builder installed a roof and deck that sloped back towards the house, which allowed all the water to drain back towards and against the house. Eventually this led to a major leak and damage to the framing.
  4. The builder installed undersized roof trusses that were not engineered to hold up our roof.
  5. The stucco subcontractor failed to apply the stucco in sufficient thickness, which led to cracks, which in turn allowed water to enter to the house.
Over the course of a year and a half, we litigated with the builder and his insurance company. Eventually, the builder's expert agreed with our expert on most of the defects. But, in mediation, where we thought we would resolve the entire case, the builder announced that he was broke, and couldn't pay any money to settle the case. To make matters worse one or more of his insurance companies declined to participate in the mediation. So after a year and half we were looked at an estimated $800,000 in repair costs, twelve months of living expenses outside the house, moving expenses, and $150,000 in legal fees.

What happened to us is not unusual. We know of others who have had similar experiences either buying new homes or building them. It takes only one bad superintendent, or a negligent stucco contractor to ruin an entire job.
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)


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