Rep. Rippy compromises on construction bill
April 3, 2003
Rep. Gregg Rippy is compromising on his bill designed to limit lawsuits over construction defects in an effort to win its approval in the Legislature this session.
A conference committee chaired by the Republican from Glenwood Springs met Tuesday to iron out differences in bills passed by the House and Senate earlier this session. The committee, which includes members from both chambers, will meet again Tuesday before sending the bill back to the Senate.
The Colorado Homebuilders Association is pressing hard for approval of the bill. Its lobbying will likely intensify after it suffered a stinging defeat on its other big bill circulating in the Legislature this year. The Senate defeated a bill Monday that would make construction of affordable housing more difficult.
The home-building industry wants to limit litigation and monetary awards over construction defects because it claims it is driving up insurance costs for contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers and developers.
Rippy is a prime sponsor of the bill. He’s been working on legislation for the last three years.
Critics contend it strips homeowners of basic rights to file lawsuits. Opposition is being led by lawyers.
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The House passed Rippy’s bill earlier this session. The Senate watered down the proposal last month.
Because the differences in the approved bills were so great, a conference committee was convened to explore a compromise. Alterations proposed by Sen. Andy McElhany, a Republican from Colorado Springs, were approved 5-1. Sen. Deanna Hanna, a Demo-crat from Lakewood, dissented because she felt it stripped consumers of basic rights and protections.
Rippy said the compromise passed by the committee resembles the version of the bill passed by the Senate much more than what he proposed at the House. Nevertheless, he supports it because it keeps two key provisions of his bill – it gives contractors the right to remedy defects alleged by customers and it limits damages to money actually lost rather than “probable damages” like mental anguish that are allegedly tied to the defective construction work.
The bill requires a disgruntled homeowner to compile a list of alleged construction defects and present them to the contractor as well as the court or arbitrator. The contractor then has the right to inspect the property and offer to fix the problem or offer money to fix the problem.
If no offer is made or it is rejected by the property owner, a lawsuit can be filed. The person filing the lawsuit can recover actual damages and seek treble damages at an amount capped at $250,000, excluding attorney’s fees and legal costs.
Rippy said the cap and exclusion of attorney’s fees from it, will be revisited at Tuesday’s conference committee meeting.
A key part of the House bill that was removed by the Senate didn’t survive scrutiny by the conference committee. If a homeowner rejected a contractor’s offer to fix defects, Rippy wanted to place the burden on homeowners to show why the proposed remedy wasn’t good enough.
Once the bill emerges from the conference committee Tuesday, it will be up to the Senate leadership to determine when the bill goes to the floor for a vote, Rippy said. If it is approved, it will advance to the House.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com]