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    Texas Builders Right To Repair Current Law Summary:

    Current Law Summary: HB 730 amended the Texas Property Code by adding Title 16 and amending chapter 27. Overseen by the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) the code asserts that a contractor is not liable for any percentage of damages caused by failure to take reasonable action to mitigate damages or take reasonable action to maintain the residence. It also limits damages, requires written notification and response for right of repair and defines warranty periods. Additionally, SB 754 states“(5-10 Sec. 27.107) a contractor may assert as an affirmative defense to an allegation of a defect made in a complaint filed under this subchapter that the defect is the result of abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications or alterations of the home.”


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    The Construction accident Building Consultant Cushing Texas, Texas Building Consultant Group is comprised from a number of credentialed construction professionals possessing extensive trial support experience relevant to construction defect and claims matters. Leveraging from more than 25 years experience, BHA provides construction related trial support and expert services to the nation's most recognized construction litigation practitioners, Fortune 500 builders, commercial general liability carriers, owners, construction practice groups, and a variety of state and local government agencies.

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    A Riveting (or at Least Insightful) Explanation of the Privette Doctrine

    May 02, 2022 —
    “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine” – Plutarch And grind they do . . . slowly. For long time readers of the California Construction Law Blog you may recall a case we reported on over three years ago in 2018 – Sandoval v. Qualcomm Incorporated – a rather sad case about a severely injured employee of an electrical subcontractor with an even more surprisingly ending. In Sandoval, the 4th District Court of Appeals affirmed a $7 million judgment against project owner Qualcomm Incorporated in which a jury found that Qualcomm was liable under the Privette doctrine for injuries sustained by the employee who was severely burned over one third of his body by an “arc flash” from a live circuit breaker. The Court of Appeals, in a surprising decision, upheld the verdict holding that Qualcomm was liable even through: (1) Qualcomm had informed the electrical subcontractor that certain live circuit breakers were energized; (2) Qualcomm had not authorized the lower-tiered contractor to remove a panel that resulted in the arc flash; and (3) employees of Qualcomm were not in the room when the accident happened. Fast forward three years to September 2021. Qualcomm attorneys petition the California Supreme Court for review of the Court of Appeal’s decision. And the Supreme Court granted review. Read the full story...
    Reprinted courtesy of Garret Murai, Nomos LLP
    Mr. Murai may be contacted at gmurai@nomosllp.com

    Construction Defect Claims are on the Rise Due to Pandemic-Related Issues

    April 25, 2022 —
    According to a recent New York Times article, pandemic-related issues such as “stop-and-start construction, global supply chain issues, pressure from lenders and yo-yoing housing prices” has caused an increase in construction defect suits for new apartment developments: “Complaints and legal claims are already emerging, signaling that a confluence of all factors amid the Covid crisis could continue to be a problem for new construction — from entry-level studios to top-tier penthouses — for years to come, according to lawyers and development consultants.” A Times analysis of Department of Buildings data by Marketproof demonstrated an increase in complaints beginning March 1st, 2020: “During the first year of the pandemic, new residential buildings recorded an average of five complaints per building, a 46 percent jump from the same period the previous year.” Steven D. Sladkus, a partner at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas told the Times that his “'phone’s been ringing off the hook' with complaints from homeowners in new condo buildings” regarding “heating problems, poor sound insulation, fire safety issues and faulty elevators.” Developers have faced a variety of pandemic-related challenges including a disrupted supply chain, shut downs, shipping delays, labor shortages, and increased material prices. In 2020, the lack of availability of vaccines caused some construction to halt: “Suddenly one guy calls in sick and the whole crew of electricians can’t show up,” Steven Zirinsky, co-chair of the building codes committee at the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects told the Times.

    Effective Zoning Reform Isn’t as Simple as It Seems

    July 03, 2022 —
    The Biden Administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan, unveiled last week, aims to help close America’s shortfall of almost 4 million housing units and subdue the nation’s skyrocketing home prices. At the top of its list of action items is a promise to provide federal grants as a reward to communities that alter land-use policies to promote density, an approach the administration is already piloting. But identifying the land-use policies that most effectively add housing is harder than it seems. Mounting evidence indicates that one-off reforms such as eliminating single-family-only zoning aren’t adequate. To make meaningful progress in building homes, municipalities have to do more. The Biden plan doesn’t detail how it will determine which types of policies will make a community eligible for these federal grants. But to meet the administration’s housing goals, we recommend it require that local governments seeking grants both show that their zoning changes are actually producing additional housing units, and also that their reforms include the full array of land-use policies that affect housing affordability. Read the full story...
    Reprinted courtesy of Bloomberg

    The Problem With Building a New City From Scratch

    May 10, 2022 —
    From California to Miami and points in between, housing costs in the U.S. are skyrocketing, bringing bidding wars in hot markets and fears of a fresh surge in homelessness as renters scramble for an affordable place to live. The deepening housing crunch — and the intractable resistance that residents often put up when the prospect of new housing emerges nearby — has led some observers to ask: Why don’t we just make new cities? “When China needs new places for people to live, they just build a new city,” Nathan J. Robinson recently wrote in Current Affairs, contemplating all the undeveloped land in between California’s costly major urban areas. “They’ve built 600 of them since 1949.” At first blush, it might seem obvious. But history is full of failed, unfinished or underperforming scratch-built city projects, in California and elsewhere, and more are in the pipeline. To learn more about how we might best approach building new cities, CityLab talked to a person who’s had a hand in planning a few of them: Alain Bertaud, a fellow at the Marron Institute for Urban Management and a globetrotting former city planner at the World Bank. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Read the full story...
    Reprinted courtesy of Nolan Gray, Bloomberg

    Were Condos a Bad Idea?

    June 13, 2022 —
    Introduction Condominiums are a nice idea, but their execution has been less than perfect. Long before the fatal Berkeley, California balcony failure in 2015 or the 2021 Champlain Towers South collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida, we suspected that all was not right with the basic condo concept. Years ago, there were already signs this "cooperative" housing model was anything but. Whether due to owner apathy, internal disputes, or failure to fund future repairs, sustaining these projects for the long-term has been difficult, leaving their future in doubt. Can this be fixed, or is the concept inherently flawed? Every enterprise has an organizational "model" to run the business. For-profit corporations obtain revenue from the sale of products or services. The revenue of non-profit condominium corporations are the assessments paid by the owners of the individual units. While these assessments are “mandatory” in the sense they must be paid, they are also “voluntary” since the amount is left to the board of directors to determine. Condos are cheaper to buy, but the sales price may not reflect the real cost of ownership. They are "cooperative" because costs and space are shared, but internal disputes and funding shortfalls operate to shorten the life of these buildings in ways few owners understand. Internal Disputes Why is condominium life frequently not “cooperative?” Disputes. Disputes between condominium owners and their associations; among board members; and between individual owners and their neighbors. There are arguments over the right to put a flag on the balcony. There are arguments over swimming pool hours. The right to paint their front door some color other than everyone else's. The right to be free of noise, smoke, or view-blocking plants. And sometimes, the claimed right not to pay assessments needed to maintain the project—all notwithstanding the governing documents to the contrary. The right to use one's property as the owner sees fit is a concept imported from the single-family home experience but not replicated in condominiums where common ownership requires rules to avoid chaos. But a condominium association's most important concern should not be the color of someone's front door or when they can swim but sustaining the building and keeping owners safe. Maybe we care someone has painted their front door bright green, but should that concern have priority over finding rot that may cause a balcony to collapse with someone on it? Resolving conflicts and enforcing the governing documents have a reasonable success rate. Still, the effort required to do that often distracts the board from more critical issues—damage that can sink the ship. Directors can waste a lot of time re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic when, if they look closely, the iceberg is coming. Maintenance Lacks Priority Why can't we enforce the rules and do what’s necessary to sustain the building and keep occupants safe? Unfortunately, juggling both behavioral and sustainability issues has proven difficult for many volunteer boards of directors. Rule disputes are always in their face, crowding their agenda, while the damage that could lead to structural failure often remains unknown. Also, enforcing—or resisting—rules can involve a clash of egos that keep those matters front and center. Or, and I suspect this is a primary culprit, the cost of adequate inspections, maintenance, and repair is so high that boards cannot overcome owner resistance to that expense. While boards and management must sustain the project and protect people, raising the funds to do that is another matter. Directors must leap hurdles to increase regular assessments. Imposing large, unexpected, special assessments for major repairs can be political suicide. Unfortunately, few owners realize how deadly serious proper maintenance is until there is a Berkeley or a Surfside, and everyone is stunned by the loss of life and property. While those are extreme cases of faulty construction, inadequate maintenance, natural causes, or all the above, they will not be the last. We know that because experts have seen precursors to those same conditions in other projects. Our concern for sustainability arises from examining newer projects during construction defect litigation when forensic experts open walls to inspect waterproofing and structural components. It also comes from helping our clients with the re-construction of older buildings and dealing with many years or decades of neglect for which little or no reserves have been allocated. The economic impact of repairing long-term damage is huge. Rot lying hidden within walls slowly damages the structural framing. Moisture seeping into balcony supports weakens them sometimes to the point of collapse. The cost to repair this damage is frequently out of reach of most condominium associations. In newer projects, when experts find problems early, claims are possible. The Berkeley balcony failure occurred in an eight-year-old building[1], and there was recourse available from the builder. But with older projects, it is often difficult to hold anyone responsible other than the owners themselves. Is The Condo Model Flawed? Suppose this is true—and our experience representing condominium projects for over forty years tells us it is—then we are not dealing only with the inexperience of some volunteer directors but rather with a flawed organization model. Board members want to succeed but are constrained by an income stream that depends almost entirely on the will of the individual owners—essentially voluntary funding. Under most state laws, funding for condominium operations and maintenance is not mandatory[2], and relies instead on the willingness of the directors to assess owners for whatever is needed, and on the willingness of owners to accept the board’s decisions. When a board of directors can set assessments at whatever level is politically comfortable, without adequate consideration, or even knowledge, of long-term maintenance needs, systemic underfunding can result[3]. What the members want are the lowest assessments possible, and directors often accede to those demands. When these factors conspire to underfund maintenance, they will drastically shorten the service life of a building. They also make it potentially unsafe. Commercial buildings incentivize their owners for good maintenance with increased rents and market value. That incentive is not relevant to a condominium owner because the accumulating deficit is rarely understood at the time of sale and not reflected in the unit’s sales price. With a single-family home, deferred maintenance is more easily identified and is reflected in the purchase price. But condo home inspections are usually confined to the interior of a unit, and do not assess the overall condition of the entire building or project or review any deficit in the funding needed to attend to deficiencies. Thus, market value is not affected by reality. In most states that require that reserves be maintained for future maintenance and repairs, the statutes require nothing other than cursory surface inspections. Damage beneath the skin of a building is not investigated, and no reserves are recommended for what is not known. California recently enacted legislation that will require condominium associations inspect specific elevated structures for safety, including intrusive testing where indicated. But no other state requires this level of inspection, and few even require a reserve study to determine how much money to save for the obvious problems, never mind those no one knows about[4]. This situation leads to unfair consequences for those owners who find themselves unlucky enough to own a unit when the damage and deficits are finally realized. Damage discovered, say, in year 35 didn’t just happen in year 35. That deterioration likely began earlier in the building's life and lay hidden for decades. It is costly to repair when it finally becomes obvious or dangerous. No prior owner, those who owned and sold their units years ago, will pay any part of the cost of the eventual rehabilitation of that building due to past lack of adequate inspections and years of artificially low assessments. Instead, the present owners will be handed the entire tab for the shortfall from several decades of deferred maintenance or hidden damage—the last people standing when the music stops. Can this trend be reversed? As condominium buildings age and deterioration continues, the funding deficit increases dramatically. But to reverse that trend and reduce the deficit, someone must know it exists and be willing to address it. That requires more robust inspections early in the building's life and potentially higher assessments to stay even with any decay. Conclusion It would not be wrong to blame this on the failure of the basic condominium model. Volunteers rarely have sufficient training or expertise to oversee complex infrastructure maintenance, especially without mandatory funding to pay for it. The model also does not insist that board members have a talent for resolving conflicts. While condominium boards can leverage fines or legal action to enforce the rules, that lacks finesse and can create greater antagonism—a distraction from the more critical job of raising funds to inspect and maintain the building. Unit owner-managed, voluntarily funded, multi-million-dollar condominium projects were probably a bad idea from the beginning. But sadly, it is way too late to reverse course on the millions of such projects built in the past sixty years. Many are already reaching the end of their service lives, with no plan to deal with that. Robust inspection standards on new and existing projects and enforceable minimum funding for maintenance and repairs should be considered by state legislatures. But whatever the approach, the present system is not staying even with the deterioration of many buildings, and that is just not safe anymore.
    1. The collapse of the balcony in Berkeley occurred on an apartment building. But the construction of that building is similar or identical to the construction of most multi-story wood-frame condominiums.
    2. Boards of directors are empowered by statute or contract to assess members for operation and maintenance costs. However, there are few statutes that set minimum funding or otherwise require boards to exercise that authority.
    3. Even in states that require reserve studies, the physical inspections are inadequate to uncover some of the costliest damage. California’s reserve study statute—Civil Code Section 5550—only requires inspection of those components that are visible and accessible, leaving damage within walls and other structural components undiscovered and funding for the eventual repairs, unaddressed.
    4. In May 2022, in response to the Champlain Towers South collapse, Florida enacted mandatory structural inspections for buildings 30 years and older, repeating every 10 years thereafter. The law also includes mandatory reserve funding for structural components.
    Reprinted courtesy of Tyler P. Berding, Berding & Weil LLP
    Mr. Berding may be contacted at tberding@berdingweil.com

    UK Agency Seeks Stricter Punishments for Illegal Wastewater Discharges

    August 07, 2022 —
    Bosses of U.K. water and wastewater utilities that are responsible for illegal, serious pollution should be jailed, said Emma Howard Boyd, head of the government's Environment Agency. She made the recommendation along with release of the agency’s annual report on the nine major companies, which recorded the worst environmental performance in a decade. Reprinted courtesy of Peter Reina, Engineering News-Record Mr. Reina may be contacted at reina@btinternet.com Read the full story...

    Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the Silent-Cyber Basket

    August 07, 2022 —
    The Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently gave another reminder why cyber insurance should be part of any comprehensive insurance portfolio. In Construction Financial Administration Services, LLC v. Federal Insurance Company, No. 19-0020 (E.D. Pa. June 9, 2022), the court rejected a policyholder’s attempt to find coverage under its professional liability insurance for a social engineering incident that defrauded over $1 million. Construction Financial Administrative Services, which goes by CFAS, disburses funds to contractors. One of its clients, SWF Constructors, was hacked, and a bad actor posing as the client asked CFAS to distribute $600,000 to a sham third party. John Follmer, an executive at CFAS and the only person authorized to approve distribution of funds, approved it. The next day, the bad actor, again posing as the client, asked Follmer to transfer an additional $700,000. Follmer approved that distribution too. Reprinted courtesy of William P. Sowers, Jr., Hunton Andrews Kurth and Michael S. Levine, Hunton Andrews Kurth Mr. Levine may be contacted at mlevine@HuntonAK.com Read the full story...

    Storm Eunice Damage in U.K. Could Top £300 Million

    February 28, 2022 —
    Hundreds of thousands of homes are still without power due after Storm Eunice tore through the country, while insurers have indicated the clean-up could cost more than £300 million. At least four people were killed in the UK and Ireland during one of the worst storms in decades, with a gust of 122mph provisionally recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight, which, if verified, would be the highest ever recorded in England. Energy Networks Association (ENA) has said nearly 400,000 homes had no electricity on Friday night, with network providers recording 156,000 disrupted customers for UK Power Networks, 120,000 for Scottish & Southern, 112,000 for Western Power, 6,000 for Northern Power and 260 for Electricity North West. Read the full story...
    Reprinted courtesy of Bloomberg