On January 14, Colorado State Sen. Ray Scott introduced SB15-091 (pdf), a bill titled “Reduce Statute Of Limitations Construction Defects,” that would protect developers from lawsuits when things go drastically wrong with the homes they build. Scott’s bill would cut in half the amount of time homeowners in Colorado would have to file lawsuits over construction defects, from six years to three. If enacted, the bill would shield homebuilders from being accountable for significant problems and expenses that homeowners incur due to construction defects they discover just a few years after moving in a new home. Most states provide consumers a 10-12 year window in which to file suits over damages due to construction defects in a new home. Scott’s bill would make Colorado one of the states with the smallest windows for consumers to gain recourse against shoddy construction.
Many construction defects aren’t apparent until years after construction, after the home has been through several wind, rain and snow storms, and cycles of cold, heat, dryness and humidity. It takes time for these conditions to reveal problems with roofs, foundations or wall construction, like use of inadequate materials or poor workmanship. Mistakes and oversights by builders or subcontractors are not only common, but are often completely unnoticeable within the first few years after construction. They can also result in extremely costly repairs for the homeowners. Under Scott’s bill, homeowners would be left holding the bag for expensive repairs to their homes needed due to shoddy construction.
Sites like this one by the Minneapolis Star Tribune show many areas where home construction goes badly wrong and while escaping all manner of routine inspection. Problems include electrical hazards (video), attic ventilation and roof construction problems (video) that over time damage the roof, misdirecting of roof drainage, sump pump problems and more, all in relatively new houses. Homeowners may not discover these problems until years after moving into their new homes.
Ironically, Scott brings this “developer protection bill” in a state that experienced one of the nation’s biggest landmark class-action lawsuits ever against a home developer, the Highlands Ranch case, in which nearly one thousand homeowners sued their developer for knowingly building on expansive clay soils. Heavy buckling of the floors and walls occurred in the plaintiffs’ homes years after construction was complete. They charged that the builder, Mission Viejo (a subsidiary of cigarette maker Philip Morris) failed to adequately disclose the fact that their homes were built on expansive clay soils, and the homes were not constructed to withstand the conditions. A jury found Mission Viejo was patently negligent. The builder had tried to save money by using inferior construction techniques given the soil conditions. The presence of clay soil and subsequent damage to Highlands Ranch homes only became apparent after several years of irrigating landscaping and lawns around the houses.
Ray Scott has claimed to be a homebuilder, but voluntarily dissolved his construction business, “Cool Water Homes,” on February 20, 2014. While the business operated, it regularly failed to file annual reports with the state. No records could be found indicating that Cool Water Homes ever actually engaged in any business activity.
Scott’s bill, SB15-091, is plainly anti-consumer. It makes it easier for construction companies to cut corners, use cheap materials and inferior workmanship and leave homeowners holding the bag for tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. It lets builders get off “Scott-free.”
Once again, Ray Scott lets down western slope citizens down by kowtowing to the desires of wealthy developers by bringing a bill that erodes citizens’ rights, leaves them less protected and blocks their right to access the courts for remedies.