Lawmakers in Pennsylvania introduced a new piece of legislation aimed at better regulating the housing construction industry. The industry has received multiple complaints in the last few years by homeowners who have found defects in their new properties.
The bill, introduced by Democratic representative John Galloway with bipartisan support from four other legislators, will establish protections for consumers buying new homes. It also aims to better hold builders accountable when problems arise.
The home builder or company would need to register with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office every two years and notify consumers of a construction defect immediately. They would also need to comply with specific language in purchase contracts.
The bill would also create a fund that consumers could collect money from in the event that the builder doesn’t pay a settlement that was awarded to the consumer by the court. The fund, which would be administered by the Attorney General’s Office, would be financed by a $50 fee every home builder issues a building permit.
The bill has been dubbed the New Home Construction Consumer Protection Act. Galloway says the legislation was inspired by a November 2018 investigation into a group of 27 homebuilders who had left hundreds of homes with severe water damage.
In a pier and beam foundation, the subfloor needs to be one half inch plywood to support the house or risk foundation damage. Foundation damage can cause a whole slew of problems including roof separation, sinking, and water damage. And 98% of homes with basements are expected to experience some type of water damage.
Investigators found that the homebuilders were undertrained workers who rushed production and used low-quality materials. As a result, water seeped into the walls of the new homes and homeowners were left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair bills.
Many of the homeowners were unaware of the construction problems until their homes were structurally unstable. When homeowners approached the builders with the damage, the builders said too much time had passed for them to be held responsible.
“This bill was really something that came from the reporting [the Inquirer] had done, which showed that this was a much bigger problem than just stucco,” said Galloway. “It was born out of the fact that consumers had very little recourse. Their hands were tied, and the contractor was holding all of the cards.”
Republican representative Thomas Murt, a co-sponsor of the bill, agreed with Galloway. “There are not adequate protections in the statute in Pennsylvania for individuals having new homes built,” he said. “We have to address this in a meaningful way.”