The Texas Residential Construction Commission was not re-established by the Texas State Legislature, which may put an end to county inspections.
Should I lament the passing of the TRCC, or should I be indifferent? I will not cheer though, as some may be doing. Right, I know, a home inspector would have liked this program as a way to make more money, but this was not the case for me. My personal belief is that the consumer in Texas has been injured by this action, and it is a shame that we did not find a way to make this law work.
First, let us take a look at the basic complaint leveled at the TRCC: the commission lacked impartiality favoring the builders over the homeowners it was meant to protect. Alright, can you tell me which commission in Texas is not biased towards the industry it is meant to regulate? We have the Texas Association of Realtors creating forms, which are adopted by the Texas Real Estate Commission as the forms that need to be used for real estate transactions. Where is the oversight in that process of parties representing the consumer? The fact of the matter is that industry needs to come to the table when discussing standards to protect the consumer. Do you want an architect ruling over how your food is grown and processed? The architect is knowledgeable about his craft, but this means nothing when it comes to food production. What I do want is someone who is reasonably educated to have a voice to tell industry that there are doubts or concerns about certain means to produce my food, a representative for the consumer. Commissions in Texas strive to have this balance, but my own feelings are that we do not do that well enough in our state.
Why did we implement the county inspection law in the first place? There were a few cases where a builder failed to produce homes that met basic standards which became a burden to the homeowners. Our current economic crisis has probably gotten rid of the bad eggs in the building industry. Of the builders that I have met through my work, I would say that only ten percent of them are hostile to inspections, but of that ten percent, only a few were hostile because they were incompetent. My experience is that most builders are trying to do their jobs well. Like any other industry, you have a percentage that do not know properly what they are doing. This happens. The property code 446 was meant to ensure that a standard was met statewide.
Is there a statewide standard? Yes. I am frequently told that in areas where there are no building inspectors that there are no building codes. You will find that all states have a set of building codes on their books, and Texas is no exception. The problem is that how the state enforces those codes. In most cases, they do not. The TRCC was established to be the enforcement arm. By having three inspections during the course of the building of a home, the buyer could be satisfied that a quality standard had been met through an independent inspection. There was real concern in the inspection community that the inspections be independent of the builder’s influence, and I know that the staff at the TRCC took that concern seriously.
What does the future hold for the consumer? Texas House Bill 2833 does allow individual counties to continue with the county inspection program. To find out if your county plans to keep up these inspections, you will have to contact the county commissioner’s court. Maybe you should write to them to ask that this insurance of residential building quality be maintained. The current law expires by September 1, 2009. All current business has to be finalized before August 31, 2009.
Was the TRCC perfect? No. However, we should have looked to see how we could have made this work, instead of getting rid of it. If the financial crisis has taught us as a nation anything, I would hope that it would be the fact that we cannot allow industry too much freedom that they run rough shod over the consumer. We should find a state of balance.