Category Archives: News

Homeowner’s Bill of Rights

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The Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee held a work session on construction problems with single-family residential construction. Senator Brian Weinstein (D-41) has introduced a series of bills that he has labeled the Homeowners Bill of Rights:

SB 5044 changes the statute of repose from 6 years to 10 years and exempts structural from the limits of the statute.
SB 5045 creates a new practice act licensing requirement for contractors.
SB 5046 creates a new legal cause of action for complaints about residential construction.
SB 5048 extends the statute of limitations on condominium projects if the suit is dismissed without prejudice.
SB 5049 creates a “home warranty” for single family construction.

The AIA/WA is very concerned that the approach taken in the bills will negatively impact the market for single family homes. They would create a whole new set of “legal rights” for single-family residential construction; or, more accurately, they would create new grounds for lawsuits. The resulting litigation will likely increase liability insurance rates for architects, engineers and contractors.

The “work session” was stacked with proponents for these bills including an advocacy coalition, attorneys for homeowners and homeowners with bad experiences. For an alternative perspective the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), which represents homebuilders, and Contractors Bonding and Insurance Company (CBIC) testified about current industry practices.

Again, the hearing can be heard at http://www.tvw.org/; search for the committee name.

Simple Majority for School Levies Gets a Hearing

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On Monday, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee held a hearing on several proposals to put a Constitutional amendment before voters to pass school levies (SJR 8207) and bonds (SB 5028, SJR 8203) with a simple majority. Currently, it takes a 60% majority of those voting and the number of voters in the election must meet certain standards. The AIA Washington Council supports changing these voting requirements to a simple majority for levies and bonds. It is unclear which specific bill or bills will move this year, but it is expected that something will be passed this year. To listen to the hearing visit Television Washington’s (http://www.tvw.org/) website and put one of the bill numbers in the search engine.

Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct on the Agenda

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At the AIA/WA Annual Meeting in November the delegates voted unanimously to support AIA Seattle’s proposal to permanently remove the viaduct. The position supported the Viaduct’s replacement with either a surface/transit corridor option or a cut-and-cover tunnel. Our press release on the issue is on the website, http://www.aiawa.org/.

In early December AIA/WA met with Governor Chris Gregoire’s chief of staff and her lead transportation aide to discuss the viaduct replacement. They were very understanding of the concerns that we raised. We were disappointed when later in December the Governor announced that rather than making a decision on the viaduct’s replacement, she would instead call for the tunnel and the elevated viaduct replacement to be put before Seattle voters in a head-to-head ballot battle.

This has caused no small amount of consternation in Seattle. The AIA/WA’s concern is the ballot measure is a Hobson’s choice for Seattle voters. It puts two bad solutions before the voters without adequate information available to voters on the choices, much less on other alternatives.

Today, the AIA/WA met with House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43). He asked for the architects’ help in visioning a better option for policymakers to consider. He strongly opposes the tunnel because of its cost and high risk for complications. He supports an elevated solution, but is open to encouraging the development of more information on a surface/transit alternative. AIA/WA will follow-up with the speaker to see how we help with the decision-making process.

Next week will meet with Senator Ed Murray (D-43) from Seattle. He is the former chair of the House Transportation Committee and is now the vice-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. He has been a tunnel advocate in the past, but always has been concerned about the environmental and social impacts of both the tunnel and elevated replacement options.

In other viaduct news, Senator Ken Jacobsen (D-46) introduced a bill (SB 5022) to authorize additional for the Viaduct project and for the Lake Washington Bridges on State Route 520 and Interstate 90. The bill is a mix of new sales taxes and an extension of the stadium taxes.

School Levies & Bonds Simple Majority

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On the positive side, bills have been introduced to remove the supermajority requirement to pass school levies (HJR 4201, SJR 8202, SJR 8207) and bonds (SB 5028, SJR 8203). These bills had hearings this week and will have more hearings next week. AIA/WA is signing in at the hearings in support of the bills proposals. Prospects look very positive for at least the levy proposals. The House has passed it several times with enough members to send it to the ballot. The problem in the past was a lack of votes in the Senate. The Democrat supermajority in the Senate brightens prospects for passage considerably. If it passes the legislature, then it would go before the voters in November.

Attack on Architect and Builder Liability

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If the first week is any indication we will be spending much of our time defending against bad bills. Senator Brian Weinstein (D-41) looks to be a source of many concerning bills dealing with liability and tort issues. On the second day of the legislative session he introduced several bills that bode ill for the design and construction community.

SB 5044 would increase the time limit in the state’s statute of repose from 6 years to 10 years and completely exempt structural defects in residential construction from any limits.

SB 5046 creates new causes of action for defects in residential (non-condominium) construction. It blows the doors wide open for new litigation on residential construction. You have to read the bill to understand how truly broad its application would be for architects, engineers, contractors, product manufacturers and others in the development community.

SB 5049 creates new warranty rights for basically everything in residential construction including: 2 years for defects in materials and workmanship, 3 years for systems in the home (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc.), 5 years for water penetration and 10 years for structural defects.

SB 5048 tolls the statute of limitations on condominium jobs if the suit is dismissed without prejudice. Basically, the bill extends the statute of limitations.

We are forming a Tort Reform Working group to tackle these bills. The working group will be responsible for analyzing the bills and helping with testimony. If you are interested in participating on this group, please contact me right away.

There is a work session the “Homeowners Bill of Rights” on Tuesday, January 16 at 1:30 p.m. before the Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee. It is no surprise that the chair of this new committee is Senator Weinstein. As this is a “work session” and not an official hearing, the witness list was preset and the AIA/WA was not included. The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) will testify, but the deck is stacked with “homeowner” groups and trial attorneys.

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