Right to repair laws: Turning down the heat

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"Right to repair" laws require homeowners and their builders to communicate before a lawsuit is filed. Many homeowners usually only file a lawsuit as a result of frustration at either being ignored entirely when they complain or receiving poor customer service. However, there are enough instances of lawsuits being filed without any attempt to solve CD problems in a nonadversarial manner to warrant such legislation. Plaintiffs' attorneys in particular have been notorious for contacting homeowners' associations and convincing them that they have a fiduciary obligation to sue on behalf of the condo or townhouse owners—even if these owners don’t want to sue.

In states where right to repair laws have been implemented, homeowners typically must notify builders of any construction defect, and builders have 90 days to acknowledge the problem and fix it before a lawsuit can be filed. In 2003, the Texas Residential Construction Commission Act increased the effectiveness of its right-to-repair law (in effect since the late 1980s) by requiring homebuilders to register and be licensed.

Some have speculated that these laws are leading to a reduction in claims frequency. Perhaps coincidentally, the 2003 passage of S.B. 800 in California more or less coincided with reduced frequency. It is too early to say if this is, in fact, the cause, and it is equally possible that the passage of the law simply created a delay in claims.

As with many facets of insuring CD risk, the environment remains in flux—making it difficult to gauge the efficiency of the solutions put forward.