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Eye On Olympia

Posts tagged: BIAW

Builders v. Homeowners: new-home warranty battle continues at the capitol…

From the print paper this morning:

Shortly after moving into her new home three years ago, Karen Veldheer and her family noticed water leaking through the foundation.

Then another leak.

And another.

Those trickles and a host of other problems with the home launched Veldheer on a long and expensive trip through arbitration and court. She has won in both arenas – after racking up more than $20,000 in lawyer fees – but says the builder still won’t pay, apparently out of fear of setting a precedent for neighbors with similar complaints.

Lawmakers in Olympia are considering several proposals to make it easier for homeowners faced with major construction defects to take builders, subcontractors and suppliers to court. Homeowners have little protection, proponents say, in a system that often requires buyers to sign away many rights as a condition for getting the home.

“We have to look out for the consumers who are obligating themselves to 30-year mortgages,” said Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia. The bills include HB 1045 and HB 1393.

Builders don’t object to some of the ideas, like stricter contractor licensing or having the state track complaints to see how bad the problem is. But they’re fighting hard against the idea of making it easier for homeowners to sue. That, they say, will spur lawsuits, drive up their insurance costs and hurt an already-struggling industry.

“Builders are not opposed to warranties,” said Damon Doyle, former president of the Building Industry Association of Washington. “Builders are opposed to broad, vague and involuntary mandatory warranties.”

There are numerous protections already, said BIAW general counsel Timothy Harris. “Existing law allows a number of ways for homeowners to sue,” he said.

And the percentage of contractors who’ve had claims filed against them, Doyle said, is less than 1.5 percent.

“All of the evidence available indicates that the problems are limited to an extremely small percentage of my colleagues,” Doyle told lawmakers. “… We can’t allow the risk of huge cost increases to further hamper an industry that is hanging by a thread.”

Rep. Dennis Flannigan, D-Tacoma, bristled at that.

“If lawyers only have 1 ½ percent of them that are crooks, we have laws about that,” he said. “People are pissed. I’m pissed. … I didn’t hear a single remedy from you about what the needs are for the people who can’t afford the lawyers you so cavalierly tell them to run to.”

Roundup: Lisa Brown for governor? and bleak news about two state reps and a hardworking blog…

-In a discussion of the significance of an anti-Building-Industry-Association-of-Washington-button at a Democratic fundraiser, writer Josh Feit offhandedly mentions Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Congressman Jay Inslee as gubernatorial candidates in 2012. Writes Feit: “I was talking to a Democratic state Senator about the 2012 governor’s race. We were handicapping state Senator Lisa Brown’s (D-3, Spokane) chances vs. U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee’s chances, in what’s likely to be a bruising primary between the two anticipated candidates. And could either one beat GOP media darling, AG Rob McKenna?” -Rep. Steve Hailey, R-Mesa, is stepping down in January, citing weakness from cancer treatments. Elected in 2006, Hailey was just starting his second session this year when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He spent most of the session at home, trying to keep up with legislative work in between chemotherapy. Hailey. 63, last week wrote to Gov. Chris Gregoire, saying “My health is such that I cannot represent the interests of my constituents in the fashion they deserve.” It’s increasingly difficult, the third-generation farmer and rancher said, to summon the physical strength to keep up with the demands of being a lawmaker. He said the treatment has been “tough but tolerable” and said he’s determined to beat the disease. “He leaves office with the same class and dignity in which he served,” said Rep. Joe Schmick, who also represents the mostly-Palouse 9th district. “I would ask that people keep Steve and his family in their thoughts and prayers.” -Politicker.wa has stopped updating its posts since last week and is apparently shutting down after a promising run as a one-stop, all-politics website. Olympian political editor Brad Shannon wrote: “Blogger Bryan Bissell at just posted an item today, titled Goodbye, and Good Luck, saying he has lost his job. The Tacoma native said parent company pulled the plug. The online news service was serving 20 states but is down to five, and the cuts came as a surprise, Bissell told me.” That farewell post has since disappeared from Politickerwa’s website. -Longtime Eastern Washington state Rep. Bill Grant, D-Walla Walla, has been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. In an announcement to fellow lawmakers, Grant said that a lung biopsy in Seattle revealed the cancer and that he’d returned home to discuss treatment options. Note: We’re still working some of the kinks out of this new blogging platform, which is why the links in the above post aren’t showing up properly. Working on this…Also, I have no idea why Brown’s name is lower-cased in the tags. No slight intended. RR

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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