Proposed Florida Law Would Sell Out Chinese Drywall Victims for the Sake of Special Interests

Chinese drywall legislation currently under consideration in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives, and heavily promoted by the building industry, has Chinese drywall victims worried. The proposed legislation, which the legislators have attempted to disguise as a means to provide relief to homeowners, would actually leave the homeowners with no legal recourse if they agree to allow a builder to remediate their home.

Critics of the proposed legislation contend that lawmakers who vote for this legislation would be putting the interests of their corporate donors ahead of their constituents whose homes and lives have been shattered by toxic Chinese drywall. Chinese drywall homeowners in the State of Florida, and other voters concerned with this anti-consumer legislation, are being urged to take action to make sure this corporate-sponsored legislation does not become law.

In the Florida State House, the legislation (HB 1133) is being sponsored by Representative Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach. Not surprisingly, it is being strongly supported by the Homebuilders Association of Florida. On March 24, 2010, in a 10-4 vote, it passed the House Insurance, Business and Financial Affairs Policy Committee. All ten votes for the proposed legislation came from the Committee’s Republican members: Representative Pat Paterson, Representative Tom Grady, Representative Carl Damino, Representative Eric Eisnaugle, Representative Anitere Flores, Representative Alan Hays, Representative Peter Nehr, Representative Bryan Nelson, Representative John Wood and Representative Ritch Workman. No Democrats voted for the bill.

HB 1133 gives homeowners the option of entering into a written agreement with a contractor working on behalf of the developer who installed the drywall, to make repairs to a property. It also would allow a condominium association to enter into a written contract on behalf of unit owners and a condominium developer or licensed contractor to make needed repairs. However, it indemnifies and holds the builders harmless from all future legal action.

Corresponding legislation is also under consideration in the state Senate. That bill (SB 2196) is sponsored by Senator Michael S. Bennett, a Republican from Bradenton. This is not the 1st time that Senator Bennett has attempted to introduce pro-industry – anti consumer legislation.

SB 2196 would prohibit, under certain circumstances, legal action in connection with damage to property arising from use of “reactive drywall,” or from repairs necessitated by it, according to its text.

In the absence of established standards for making repairs due to defective drywall, those affected may agree to measures to remediate their property. But once repairs are completed, they would no longer have grounds to sue, the bill states.

The major problem with both bills is that a protocol for remediating Chinese drywall has yet to be established. If either one of these bills becomes law and a homeowner enters into a remediation agreement with a builder, the homeowner will have no legal recourse should the repairs not successfully remediate the condition. Nor is there any requirement that the remediation be performed pursuant to the remediation standard that will eventually be established by the government or courts. It seems any remediation, no matter how shabby, will do for these legislators. At the same time, these bills deny current and future property owners – Florida taxpayers and voters – any recourse if the repair/remediation is performed in a negligent or careless manner. It even protects those corporate interests if the remediation was performed in a manner that is not in compliance with the Florida Building Code. Currently Florida law does provide a legal remedy for those affected by toxic Chinese Drywall – these bills will remove that right. Only two words can describe this – SHOCKING and UNCONSCIONABLE!

It is striking that HB 1133 was able to pass the House Insurance, Business and Financial Affairs Policy Committee on Thursday, even though there was testimony that the bill was anti-consumer, anti-homeowner and anti-taxpayer. Even Rep. Mayfield agreed she needed to fix some aspects of it. Despite her own misgivings, Rep. Mayfield still pushed the committee to pass the bill.

Advocates for Chinese drywall homeowners are calling on Florida voters to contact Representative Mayfield and the members of the Committee who advanced this dubious legislation, Representative Pat Paterson, Representative Tom Grady, Representative Carl Domino, Representative Eric Eisnaugle, Representative Anitere Flores, Representative Alan Hays, Representative Peter Nehr, Representative Bryan Nelson, Representative John Wood and Representative Ritch Workman, to voice their shock and displeasure at their failure to stand with their constituents and families who have been victimized by toxic Chinese drywall. They are also urging that voters contact Rep. William Snyder, Chair of the Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council – the next stop for HB 1133 – and demand that he not calendar or hear this anti-consumer legislation.

SB 2196 is not calendared for a hearing in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee at this time. Advocates for Chinese drywall victims are urging voters to contact Sen. Dennis Jones, chair of the Committee, and ask him to stand with families who have been victimized by Chinese Drywall and not calendar this anti-consumer and anti-homeowner legislation.

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