WHO WE ARE:
Homeowners of Texas, Inc. (HOT) is a Texas non-profit corporation. We opened our doors in August 2008 just two blocks from the State Capitol in Austin to facilitate bi-partisan consumer advocacy, lobbying and education of homeowners, policy makers, builders, and other stakeholders.
Our mission is to help enact legislative reforms to ensure that Texas contractors, insurance companies, lenders and service providers operate on a level playing field with Texas homeowners.
Our Homeowners’ Bill of Rights is designed to give homeowners competitive choices and a level playing field when dealing with contractors, mortgage lenders, insurance companies, service providers, and taxing bodies. It is grounded in the belief that a “home” is much more than a structure, dwelling or residence.
A home is where the heart is – a person’s castle – a sanctuary from a busy world – a safe, secure and structurally sound place to grow up or raise a family, feel pride and share time with friends. A home is the biggest financial investment most people will ever make. As such, it must be safe and free from contamination and other hazards, have a strong foundation, protect its occupants from intruders and the weather, and last at least as long as the mortgage. We think of the home in terms of where we grew up or where we lived – a place that brings back old memories or feelings.
The building industry often has a different perspective, viewing the construction and sale of a house as a one-time business transaction. Without regulatory oversight, their profit incentive can lead to business decisions that are detrimental to homeowners and the communities they live in.
Understanding these different perspectives, we advocate for Texas homeowners to protect them from substandard construction and want to work with quality builders that share that viewpoint. As for the others – those companies that cut corners and build shoddy homes and then hide behind laws that shield them from accountability – we view them as “home wreckers”, not home builders. That’s because homes with serious defects destroy lives and the whole meaning of Home.
It’s absurd that Texans have more protection today when they buy an existing home or a new or used car than when buy a new home.
We proved ourselves during the 81st legislative session, but there’s much more we want to do, including:
- Reform construction laws to hold builders accountable;
- Enhance the homebuilding industry with high professional standards;
- Improve construction quality to minimize defects in new and remodeled homes;
- Promote Energy Star, green, sustainable, and life-saving enhancements to building codes;
- Sustain and enhance home values and the tax base that depends on them;
- Provide Texas homeowners with a fair legal system to resolve disputes;
- Restore consumer trust in buying new homes or remodeling older ones; and
- Contribute to economic development in Texas.
Regulatory Oversight. Improve construction quality and reduce causes of disputes through the latest building codes and contractor licensing, education, insurance bonding, and enforcement.
Trust Funds & Property Liens. Stiffen penalties for the misuse of construction trust funds.
Arbitration. Protect a homeowner’s constitutional right to a jury trial as an alternative to forced arbitration, and establish fairness, transparency and judicial review of arbitration proceedings.
Judgments. Allow courts and arbiters to help homeowners who have suffered greatly by granting emotional stress awards.
Contamination. Repeal the Brownfields Act, which allows building on contaminated lands without disclosure or liability.
Vertical integration. Prohibit or regulate the vertical integration of builder and finance companies, the offloading of risk by selling mortgaged-backed securities, and the cozy relationships between builders, inspectors, appraisers, arbiters, suppliers, and others in the value chain.
In its first year, HOT achieved what other consumer groups have been unable to do in the past 20 years as the plight of Texas homeowners steadily worsened.
Dispute resolution. Defeated HB 2295 in the 81st legislature, abolishing the TRCC, removing roadblocks.
Warranties. Repealed illusory state warranties and restored the implied warranty of habitability.
Engineering. Helped pass HB 2649 to require properly engineered slab foundations on expansive soils.
Although HOT was a newcomer in the fight to improve Texas homebuilding, our success was hardly a coincidence. We came onto the scene with a fresh approach, a big-picture perspective, strong analytical capabilities, an ability to craft legislative solutions, a background in construction law, experience in lobbying, a strategically-chosen set of witnesses to testify, an office two blocks from the Capitol, and a consistent and strategic message and focus. As they say, “Some problems are so difficult that they can’t be solved in a million years… unless you THINK about them today.”
We succeeded in abolishing a bad state agency, the TRCC (Texas Residential Construction Commission), going up against powerful lobbyists from the $35 Billion Texas homebuilding industry and two Astroturf consumer groups. Unfortunately, these groups were co-opted by the homebuilders and made our task more difficult. They promoted the builders’ deceptively-written and anti-consumer legislation and sold out the very people they were supposed to represent.
We also worked in concert with the Texas Society of Professional Engineers to pass HB 2649, which now requires the engineering of all slab foundations on expansive clay soil. This important legislation will address the primary cause of one of the most serious structural defects in new homes.
Our unique insight. People said we couldn’t take on the powerful builder lobby directly, but we recognized and capitalized on a changing political climate that others were blind to. The nation had a new President in Obama, and Texas had a more balanced Texas legislature. Other factors included a new House Speaker, new committees that diluted the builders’ lobby influence, strategic blunders by TAB and TRCC management, a damning report from the Sunset Committee staff, strong public testimony against the TRCC, a global financial collapse, and a nation fed up with the lack of accountability.
We plan to contribute to and benefit from this increasing consumer demand on government well into the future, with a focus on “Fix Housing First” by regulating the unregulated restoring accountability, fairness and public trust.
OUR ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE:
Our all-volunteer organization and Board of Directors includes:
President Tom Archer, a retired AT&T telecom attorney and lobbyist who learned how badly construction laws favored builders due to his own bad experience building a new home;
General Counsel Lou McCreary, a construction law attorney representing homeowners.
Our Advisory Board already includes one of the best structural engineers in the State and one of the best licensed real estate & building code inspectors, but to accomplish our mission, we are looking for others to represent homebuilders, fund raising, public relations, real estate sales, and volunteering.
OUR BUDGET & FUNDING:
Our expenses so far have been modest and self-funded and only include rented office space near the Capitol, some capital equipment such as computers and furniture, and operating expenses for things like phone & Internet and office supplies. We can do much more and accomplish our broader mission with funds from contributions, sponsorship and grants. With your support and funding we will be able to:
Hire paid staff to handle office management, accounting, volunteer coordination, the creation of newsletters and marketing collateral, etc.
Direct mail and email campaigns that require mailing lists and the development of marketing collateral
Enhance our website to accept and account for online donations
Engage an appropriate ad agency and advertise with a focus primarily on online, print and radio
Produce online presentations and stories, YouTube videos, TV b-rolls, and training DVDs
OUR VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES:
We can’t do it all ourselves and need your help. We’re looking for people who believe in our cause and can contribute money or time – at least 1 hour per week, or more for short-term projects. We’re just starting to develop a volunteer orientation program, online interview form, confidentiality statement, and task list. For information, please e-mailInfo@HomeownersOfTexas.org .We want to understand what you can and would like to do so we can get you (and your family) into tasks that match your interests. These tasks might include:
Outreach to potential partners, alliances and stakeholders,
Public speaking as a part of the HOT speaker’s bureau,
Documenting testimonials, including your own,
Doing research and writing articles,
Fundraising and tech support, and
Education and outreach, among others.