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Jerk Me Around, Please; Refer Me to the TRCC
By: Jordan Fogal

Everywhere you go to complain about defective houses or poor quality workmanship in the city of Houston or state of Texas, you get the same cop-out. You are referred to the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC). My TRCC file has grown to three and one-half inches, as I try to get help from that state agency. I have been trying to get them to do their job so long that I am on my second deputy director. The first one, Stephen Thomas, resigned. Politicians make excuses for this inept agency saying that it was a new agency and should be given a chance. How many years is that a valid excuse? This agency was conceived long before it was created by HB730 and went into effect in September of 2003.

In the beginning, every time you called the TRCC, and you got a different person on the phone and a different answer. I have letters in direct conflict of others. It was insane. At one time, the Governor was even referring condo owners to the TRCC, but the TRCC does not regulate condos. No one seemed to know exactly what they did; but it was already public knowledge, who they represented. It was also public knowledge that it was Bob Perry's scheme; and his top in-house lawyer, John Krugh (who had drafted much of the legislation), was appointed by Governor Perry to serve on the Commission.  Strange how that happens in Texas. My renegade builder of defective houses sits on the Harris County Housing Authority and built for the poor and elderly.

Carol Keeton Strayhorn received a legislative request to research this builder-owned agency and report an analysis of the impact of the TRCC on Texas Homeowners and the economy.  She surveyed hundreds of homeowners with defective homes that the TRCC had not helped. She was lambasted for her findings. The fact that they were accurate was not an issue in Austin; only that Bob Perry's agency had been called out in the open for bungling its supposed protection of Texan homeowners.

Ms. Strayhorn said, "But it wasn't the role of government to throw up bureaucratic barriers to protect unethical or inept builders from their customers." She further found out that, "In fiscal 2005, the agency spent $3.7 million on its operations. That same year, the agency collected $6.6 million from builders and homeowners.  As a result, the agency transferred $2.9 million to the general fund, effectively helping balance the general state budget on the backs of homeowners. In the next two years, the agency is estimated to raise about $9.7 million a year from its fees and spend only $4.2 million a year, meaning that the agency will be putting more money in the general budget than it does into doing its job."  "For these reasons, if it were up to me personally, I would blast this Texas Residential Construction Commission builder-protection agency off the bureaucratic books," Ms. Strayhorn said. Both her report and news release can be found at http://www.window.state.tx.us/.

After that, the new deputy director, Duane Waddell, had to admit (on television) to her findings that 86% of the claims filed with the TRCC were mishandled. In the TRCC propaganda it states, the TRCC must be satisfied with an applicant's honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. Yet you soon find out that if you have a defective home in Texas, your builder is still allowed to operate even if that builder commits fraud, employs a felon as agent and a principle, and has numerous serious defects involving entire subdivisions.

I am a simple person. I paid good money for a house, that in only 29 months was totally uninhabitable. I have asked repeatedly exactly, what the TRCC considers a bad builder.  What is their criterion for denying a big builder a registration? I asked Mr. Waddell, in front of the State Affairs Committee; but once again got no answer. At that same committee hearing, Representative Swinford became livid at the mere mention of Comptroller Strayhorn's investigation of the TRCC.

If you go to the TRCC, they will tell you to get a lawyer. You will need one, as you will probably end up in Mandatory Binding Arbitration, or threatened with it. Most people usually just give up after their horrendous ordeal, traversing the red tape associated with the TRCC. Many people don't even bother filing with the TRCC when they find out how useless it is. Even so, there are still a 41% increase in complaints last year and a 49% increase this year over that, according to Mr. Waddell. Is that a 90% increase in two years? That is just the people who can afford to file complaints. Last year, the attorney general received over 12,000 complaints against builders that went unanswered.... yet he issues the following comment:

Home ownership lies at the heart of the American dream,” Attorney General Abbott said. Texans will not tolerate those who exploit the dream of home ownership for their own unlawful gain. We must aggressively protect those who aspire to own a home.”

I was first referred to the TRCC by the city council and then the mayor. Then, when I reappeared at the agenda meeting, I was informed, by then Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, that the council was not the place to bring builder issues; there was a special state agency for that. I held up TRCC's slick, red-white-and-blue file with its hundreds of pages and told her that I knew someone would refer me there. I told her, "Please, do not even start. The TRCC was a farce."

We showed pictures of an almost destroyed subdivision and the TRCC file, along with media and other documented reports from other victims.

Representative Garnet Coleman summed it up exceptionally well, while speaking about the TRCC: "In Texas can you buy your own state agency, then regulate yourself."

I have had an epiphany. I know the purpose of the TRCC! It is where everyone can refer you, pass the buck, cause confusion, frustration, say it is not under their jurisdiction, or it's not my job. They make the homebuyers go in a circuitous route like a dog chasing its tail; the only difference is the dog is having fun.

It is like having an EX-HUSBAND; you can blame him for everything bad that happens. The TRCC is the state of Texas' ex-husband – the excuse for everything that's wrong. He has the money, the power; and you get the kids. It is just like the TRCC.  They have the power; they have made a ton of money for the state; and they will not accept the responsibility for their actions, nor the actions of the rogue builders who are allowed to trample the good people of Texas.

I knew that if I thought long and hard, I would come up with a good reason for their existence. They are in bed with the other woman (the builders). The TRCC, like the ex-husband, is caught. Does he now deny, lie, and cover-up indiscretions and bad decisions? Does his lack of integrity bring shame on the family?  (The family of homeowners trying to provide a roof over their heads.)  This is disgraceful and tears at the moral fiber of our society.

Jordan Fogal

Binding Arbitration and Right-to-Cure, Is Your State Next? That is a very real threat!