Construction bill raises concerns

— A bill before the Colorado House of Representatives would make it more difficult for homeowners to sue builders.

Introduced to the House Tuesday and preliminarily passed Friday, the bill would give homebuilders more protections under the law and amend the Construction Defect Action Reform Act, which passed in 2001.

The current bill is sponsored in part by state Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park and would limit what damages could be covered on properties that are in "substantial compliance with building code regulations and industry standards." It would also virtually eliminate builders from paying triple damages by requiring homeowners to prove to a judge that homebuilders acted in fraud and bad faith. And it would limit the number of complaints a homeowner can report by requiring a specific list and allowing the list to be amended only once.

Ed MacArthur said it has not been a problem for his company, Native Excavating Inc, but he has heard of lawyers taking advantage of the existing law.

"I guess there has been a pretty good influx of ... attorneys," he said. "Anybody with any type of problems, these guys go in and start suing. They are clogging up the system."

And too many lawsuits mean high insurance premiums or no coverage at all. Contractor Steve Cavanagh of Cavanagh Inc. said homebuilders can no longer get insurance coverage for potential damages from things like mold.

"You can't get insurance and you can't get it at reasonable rates," Cavanagh said.

But the bill has some homeowners concerned. City Council President Kathy Connell, who co-owns Colorado Resort Services, said it is hard enough now to sue contractors for damages. Working with the owners of the condo and townhomes she manages, Connell has gone through four legal battles for construction problems. Connell said having damages repaired or covered can be next to impossible if the contractor is not local.

"We had difficulty finding and getting the contractor," Connell said. "We have dealt with too many situations with contractors gone and having to deal with the expense of (damages)."

She also expressed concern about the limitations that could be placed on homeowners filing claims. She said a limitation of a year is too short for problems that come from roofs or foundations.

"In a faulty roof, it may be built at the end of the summer, and there could be a dry fall, a dry winter and you don't know until next winter," she said "It may take a year and a half and you're out of (luck) to be able to go after the contractor."

The bill came up at Tuesday's City Council meeting because the Colorado Municipal League opposes the bill and requested that municipalities do the same.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich said the league, which represents municipalities throughout the state, oppose it as property owners of city halls, ice rinks, recreation centers and other public buildings.

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