H.B. 879 Tackles Faulty Materials and Building Contracts in Pennsylvania

April 2nd, 2019 by Brigid O'Leary

On first glance, Pennsylvania House Bill 879 doesn’t appear to have much impact on the fenestration industry. With legislation, however, there tends to be ripple effects, so those who make or sell door and windows products are well advised to tune into any proposal pertaining to “notification of defective or faulty building material[s] or product[s].”

Introduced on March 25 and referred to the Committee on Consumer Affairs the same day, HB879 provides for such notifications, among other aspects designed to regulate home construction contracts and the homebuilders who enter into them. The bill is currently backed by five representatives looking to protect consumers from defects in home construction, including those posed by water damage.

If signed into law, the bill will require anyone working as a homebuilder (defined as a person who enters into a contract with a consumer for construction of a new home) to register with the Bureau of Consumer Protection every two years. It also defines a “home construction contract” as including “all agreements for labor, services and materials to be furnished and performed under the contract,” as well as approximate start and completion dates for work. A description of work to be performed would also be required, as well as a complete list of materials and a set of specifications that cannot be changed without written change orders, signed by both consumers and homebuilders. The name and contact information of “all subcontractors on the project known at the date of signing the contract” must also be included in the home building contract—including those providing and installing doors and windows.

Pennsylvania H.B. 879 also extends certain requirements to projects that do not require permitting, declaring that, “All work performed by a homebuilder under a home construction contract shall comply with … the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act, regardless of whether a permit or inspection is required by the municipality in which the work is being performed.”

Section 503 is one to note, as it sets a time frame for action: 30 years. If at any time up to 30 years after new home construction is completed, “a homebuilder is made aware of a defective building material, product, special order material or building technique,” that was used amid construction, then within three months the builder must provide written notification of those defective materials, product special order materials or building techniques to homeowners.

The bill also prohibits homebuilders from deviating or disregarding “plans or specifications, in any material respect without a written change order” that includes price changes for each deviation and is “dated and signed by both the homebuilder and consumer.” Additionally, it seeks to establish a Home Builder Guaranty Fund, into which all registered builders are required to pay. The fund is one from which consumers will be paid if they experience, “actual loss that results from an act or omission by a homebuilder in the performance of a home construction contract or a violation of this act by a homebuilder as found by a court of competent jurisdiction,” or if the builder has filed for bankruptcy protection. The same extends to door and window contractors, as those benefits extend to those companies and their employees, “so long as the subcontractor employee acted within the scope of the home construction contract.”

In the meantime, in cases when the Bureau has to utilize the Home Builder Guaranty Fund, it’s unlikely that there will be any repeat offenders, as legislation calls for revoking the certificate (registration) of the homebuilder, who will then be ineligible to get a new certificate until the amount paid out has been repaid in full, plus interest.

There’s considerably more to H.B. 879 to monitor, as it’s only been around for a little more than a week. In the meantime, how much of its current language makes it to law remains to be seen.

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