The house that Carmela built
Remember Carmela Soprano in the HBO series "The Sopranos" and her ambitious but disastrous whim to build a house?
Now think of the poor schmuck who buys the place and has to deal with the consequences of inferior materials and the contractor's general ineptness. Washington residents in that boat shared a litany of dream-turned-to-nightmare stories in a recent Senate hearing on a bill to protect consumers better. In Washington state, a consumer who pays top dollar for what is likely their single-largest purchase but gets low quality has little recourse, especially for defects, such as water damage, that show up years later. Sen. Brian Weinstein, chairman of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Housing, is sponsoring bills that give buyers more guarantee of quality and impose some minimum standards for training and licensing of contractors.
Senate Bill 5550 would require warranties on new homes, ranging from two years for defects in materials and workmanship to up to 10 years for structural defects.
The Mercer Island Democrat's other bill, SB 5045, would require that contractors have a license. It directs the Department of Labor and Industries to establish training standards and a written exam that applicants must pass. A nine-member board — including five contractors — would advise the agency on the standards.
To be a general contractor , you must register with the state and file a surety bond of $12,000; a specialty contractor must have a bond of $6,000. While some subcontractors, such as electricians, require training and licensing, general contractors are only registered, not licensed.
The building industry is fighting these bills, suggesting they will drive prices up even further and create more business for lawyers.
But bad builders hurt the many good ones. And it's hard to fathom why a builder who made a tidy profit on a $500,000 house wouldn't want to make sure buyers got what they paid for.
If the industry has concerns about the details, it should work with Weinstein to set standards, rather than fight him.
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