More rights for homebuyers sought - East Valley Tribune: Business

More rights for homebuyers sought

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Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 7:32 pm | Updated: 5:56 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Homebuyers would get an automatic 10-year warranty on houses they purchase under the terms of an initiative drive launched Wednesday.

The measure also would:

• Allow homeowners to help choose the contractors hired by the builders to make repairs.

• Give buyers the right to cancel within 100 days and get back most of their deposit.

• Let homeowners sue without fear of having to pay a builder’s legal fees if they lose.

It also would require that model homes be outfitted exactly the way they would look for the purchase price advertised or have a price tag on each of the nonstandard items.

Backers need 153,365 signatures on petitions by July 3 to put the measure on next year’s general election ballot.

The drive is being financed by Local 359 of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association. Richard McCracken, the organization’s attorney, said they are interested in the issue because many union members are also homebuyers.

But the petition drive also has a political purpose. Sean Mahoney, the union’s regional director, conceded to Capitol Media Services the initiative might never have been launched had homebuilders helped push to ensure that union contractors are hired for home construction jobs. He said if union-trained workers were doing home construction, “we probably wouldn’t have the defect issue, and we probably wouldn’t be pushing this.’’

Spencer Kamps, vice president of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona, countered that Mahoney’s demands were more blatant than that. He said Mahoney offered to kill the initiative even before it got started if Kamps’ group would help force a specific Arizona subcontractor who does heating and air-conditioning work for homebuilders — he would not say who — to unionize.

“It’s a type of blackmail,” Kamps said.

As to the merits of the actual initiative, Kamps could provide only general objections.

One, he said, is that the new requirements would make it harder or at least more expensive for homebuilders to get insurance.

He also objected to a change in existing law, which now says whoever loses a lawsuit between homeowner and builder has to pay the other’s legal fees and cost of expert witnesses. The initiative keeps that provision when homeowners win but deletes it when the builder wins.

McCracken defended the provision, saying no homeowner going up against a large national firm is going to risk paying thousands of dollars in fees.

The initiative is crafted to repeal some of the provisions of a 2002 law pushed through the Arizona Legislature by homebuilders to shield them from lawsuits.

McCracken said the ballot measure does preserve one section of that law that requires homeowners and builders to try to work out problems before a lawsuit can be filed. But he said the rest of the law has to go because it essentially has made it impossible for homeowners unable to reach an accord to then take their case to court.

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