Continued Story from Dallas Morning News

State-sought home fixes rarely made

Construction board lacks authority to have builders correct defects

Leaders of two of the nation's largest arbitration providers, the American Arbitration Association and Construction Arbitration Services, say that strict ethical standards guide their practice and that arbitrators have no incentive to favor builders.

We would refuse to do business with any organization in any industry that wanted to influence us in any way," said Edward Hartfield, executive director of CAS in Clinton Township, Mich. "We will never compromise neutrality and impartiality."

Both Mr. Hartfield and Richard Naimark, senior vice president of the American Arbitration Association, believe there's a balance between the percentage of cases decided in favor of builders vs. the percentage won by homeowners.
But they don't have hard numbers or definitive studies.

By year's end, the TRCC hopes to have results from a Texas study of arbitration cases and demographics based on discussions with attorneys, builders, homeowners and arbitrators, Mr. Waddill said. The report is to be presented to the Legislature in January.

Mr. Waddill said he requested money for three ombudsmen and two clerical workers to help follow up with homeowners struggling to get builders to make repairs.

The agency also plans to make detailed information about complaints and resolutions searchable on its Web site.
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Location: Allen

REX C. CURRY / Special to DMN Richard and Olivia Tackett had problems when water came through the synthetic stucco on their Allen home.
Defect: Synthetic stucco on the home's exterior allowed water to seep in, ruining the framing and baseboards and prompting mold growth.

Response: The builder did not respond to the Texas Residential Construction Commission's repair recommendations. The Tacketts sued. Both parties agreed to mediation and settled on an amount to pay for the repairs. The exact terms are sealed, but Mrs. Tackett said the couple, "significantly compromised on our demands to settle the dispute."

Builder: Norman Barfield, Barfield Building Company, of Roanoke

Builder's comments: Mr. Barfield did not return calls.

Location: Hunt County near Caddo Mills

Defect: The Wilsons pointed out more than 20 defects in their home, backed up by a private inspector who said the problems were caused by shoddy construction. But the commission's inspector ruled that the builder's only fault was using the wrong paint. He recommended the builder pay to correct the color.

Action: The builder did not respond to the commission recommendation, and he did not address the other issues.

Builder: Richard Willingham, formerly of Garland

Builder's comments: Mr. Willingham said the Wilsons still owed him money for his work on the house, which is the main reason he didn't take care of their paint problems. He disagrees with the second inspector's report. "There was nothing wrong with that house," he said.

Location: Forney

REX C. CURRY / DMN Kathy Heddin said her builder did not make repairs that were promised.

Defect: The commission determined that the builder needed to fix an electrical outlet, level the bathroom floor, repair cracks in the drywall, replace portions of the sidewalk and fix a possible leak that was causing the foundation to shift. Both the homeowners and builder believe the house shifted because of a drainage problem, but they disagree on who is at fault.

Action: The builder did not make the repairs. The Heddins filed a lawsuit and are awaiting the builder's response. Mrs. Heddin (above) said the builder has threatened to file for bankruptcy.

Builder: Jeffrey Todd Liles, Liles Custom Homes, of Garland

Builder's comments: Mr. Liles said the Heddins ruined the drainage when they leveled their back yard, causing the foundation to shift. He said he's willing to take care of all other problems outlined in the report, but the foundation issue stands in the way. "They requested I buy the house back at $200,000, when I only sold it to them for $150,000. It's way above and beyond what I had any intention of doing."

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