Posted on Mon, Jun. 07, 2004

New rules will give consumers more power when dealing with builders

By J.G. Domke

Special to the Star-Telegram

In an effort to build professional standards and practices and to give consumers recourse when things go wrong, the Texas Association of Builders and the Texas Residential Construction Commission are seeking input on new rules to govern the home building and remodeling industries.

"We've got so many remodelers and builders out there who shouldn't be out there," said Rob Mathews, president of Curb-Appeal Renovations in Haltom City. "That's why we are pushing for high standards. I'm for it 110 percent."

The state commission, which was created last year, will track qualified builders and develop a standard warranty for new home construction and repairs, said Bobby Bowling III, president of the Texas Association of Builders.

The commission has 12,000 builders registered.

Texas now requires all contractors to apply for a permit for any job costing over $20,000. The permit starts the state-sponsored inspection and dispute resolution process, under which the work must meet warranty and building performance standards. The commission will take suggestions and comments from Texas residents till June 25, hoping to have those standards set by the end of the year.

The commission will keep a public record of all disputes with builders, involving new homes and work done on existing homes.

The commission's registry and its record of customer disputes will also give consumers a place to research contractors before they commit to a new project.

Mathews, registered as CA Renovations, says that the registry is good for remodelers and new-home builders and recommends that those needing contractors go there first before taking bids on a project.

Consumers can reach the commission at www.trcc. state.tx.us or (877) 651-8722.

Another resource is the National Association of the Remodeling Industry's directory of certified members, at www.remodeltoday.com.

Certified remodelers must have been in business for five years and pass exams on topics from plumbing to carpentry and how to meet a homeowner's expectations.

Mathews is slated to become president of the Fort Worth NARI chapter.

According to the association, 1 million U.S. homes are remodeled every year. Members compete for awards for the best bathroom or the best kitchen design and enjoy other benefits.

Remodeling may be the more challenging job for contractors, because it requires that families put up with inconvenience, Matthews said. He requires his crews not to smoke in the client's home, not to play the radio too loudly, not to park in front of the mailbox, to ask before using the bathroom and to take off their shoes before walking on a finished floor.

Additionally, before doing demolition work, Mathews guides the client to various suppliers to look at samples and select tile, plumbing fixtures and appliances to avoid any surprises after the work begins.