YES ON 201: Home buyers need a way to hold builders responsible for shoddy workby Rebekah Friend on Sep. 22, 2008, under Elections, Opinion
One of the largest investments a working family will make is their home.
Many hardworking Arizonans scrimp and save for years to have their piece of the American dream for their families.
These dreams can quickly be shattered by the realization of faulty construction, defects and no real process to remedy the situation.
As families move into these homes, too many times their dreams become a nightmare.
Foundations start to crack, shoddy roofs bring leaks that turn to mold, and faulty wiring makes the simple flip of a light switch a potential hazard.
These homeowners do everything possible to correct the problems. They make calls, fill out paperwork and experience a never-ending maze of bureaucracy in their attempts to have a livable home for their family.
Time and time, again the homebuilders fail to meet their responsibilities for their faulty construction and defects.
In 2002, lobbyists for the homebuilders convinced the Arizona Legislature to pass legislation to radically change homeowners’ rights in favor of the builders’. It stripped most of the basic consumer protections that should be part of every purchase made by families.
The Homeowners Bill of Rights is based on the simple notion that if you buy a home and it turns out to be poorly built, you should be able to do something about it.
It is based on the notion that consumers should get what they pay for and that sellers should be held accountable for the quality of their product.
A home is usually the largest investment a family ever makes, and the builder should proudly stand by its product.
Shelter is a basic human need; it is not an option. In a place like Arizona, with its extreme weather, quality is essential and defects need to be addressed in a timely way.
People who spend their hard-earned life savings in the purchase of shelter deserve a reasonable course of action if their purchase turns out to be problematic.
The Homeowners Bill of Rights uses ordinary, nontechnical language that anyone can understand. It requires that sellers do the same in their dealings with purchasers.
Should Arizona consumers settle for anything less?
This initiative, when passed, will restore the rights of these families to have their concerns and complaints responded to in a timely manner and to have the repairs done on their homes by reputable contractors.
It will put an end to deceptive sales tactics and require the homebuilders to be forthright with information needed by working families when making their decision to purchase.
The opponents of this proposition will say Prop. 201 will prohibit two parties from agreeing to resolve their disputes without going to court and hiring attorneys. False. The Federal Arbitration Act preempts any state law that tries to interfere with arbitration/ ADR agreements.
The opponents will also say this forbids the defendants from recovering attorney’s fees even if the case is frivolous or they win. False. The courts, as a separate branch of government, have the inherent power under the state constitution to impose sanctions against lawyers and parties who bring frivolous suits.
The opponents will also claim that all disputes, large or small, go to court – raising costs for everyone. False. Most builders already put in their sales agreement an arbitration clause, and courts refuse to hear disputes that are supposed to be heard in arbitration.
The homebuilders will spend a lot of money in an attempt to stop the votes from approving this bil. Why? An argument can be made that they should stand behind their product.
Why should a home have less of a warranty than a car? That’s the way it is now in Arizona, even though a home is the family’s biggest investment.
The Homeowners Bill of Rights will fix that and many other ways that current law favors big builders over homeowners.
Highlights of Proposition 201 include: Provide a 10-year warranty on new homes; homeowner will have the right to demand either that builders correct construction defects or compensate the homeowner; a homeowner will get to participate in the selection of contractors to do repairs; and model homes must reflect what is actually for sale.
Voting “yes” will balance the rights of the homeowners and the homebuilders. It’s time to make things right, which is why it is in the hands of the voters.
Rebekah Friend is executive director of the Arizona AFL-CIO.