Florida Lawmakers Finally Take Up Chinese Drywall Issue

The Florida legislature is finally addressing the Chinese drywall problem. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Florida Senate’s Community Affairs Committee held their first hearing on the issue in Tallahassee yesterday.

Florida has been the state hardest hit by the Chinese drywall debacle. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), just over 1100 Florida homeowners have reported problems with Chinese-made wallboard. It is estimated that thousands of Florida homes were built with the defective materials. Gases emitted from Chinese drywall are being blamed for significant property damage, including damage to HVAC systems, smoke detectors, electrical wiring, metal plumbing components, and other household appliances. These gases also produce a sulfurous odor that permeates homes, and cause metals, including air conditioning coils and even jewelry, to corrode. People living with Chinese drywall have also suffered eye, respiratory and sinus problems that may be linked to the gases.

Though the first complaints about Chinese drywall came from Florida homeowners a year ago, the state legislature has done little to address the problem. According to Herald-Tribune, lawmakers in other states have acted. Louisiana, for instance, has approved a measure intended to provide as much as $5 million to help homeowners affected by Chinese drywall. Local officials in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia have banned use of Chinese drywall in their cities. Laws have also proposed on the federal level that would, among other things, establish tighter regulatory standards over wallboard and other construction materials.

Despite the slow response of the Florida legislature, the Herald-Tribune reported that lawmakers on the Community Affairs Committee said there was an urgency to get something done to help affected homeowners. According to the Herald-Tribune, some actions the Florida legislature could consider include:

* Providing relief on mortgage payments for homeowners trying to rehabilitate their homes at the same time they have had to move their families because of potential health threats from the drywall.

* Developing a standard for remediating homes and certifying them as being free from the drywall problems.

* Allowing homeowners to receive a tax break to offset their rehabilitation costs.

* Providing help to homeowners trying to deal with insurance companies over the cost of the home rehabilitation.

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