Homebuilders strongly support transparency and better policing of bad actors in construction, but Senate Bill 465 is not the right tool to improve public safety.
SB 465, authored by Sen. Jerry Hill, claims that disclosure of out-of-court settlements by builders will help prompt state investigations into bad actors, hopefully preventing tragedies like the balcony collapse in the city of Berkeley (“Balcony collapse points to a loophole in law,” Editorials, July 9).
As drafted, however, this measure, which is scheduled to go before the Assembly Business and Professions Committee on Tuesday, will not give regulators the information to actually identify and weed out bad actors. More importantly, it misses the opportunity to pass a policy that prioritizes the speed of construction defect repairs.
California policy should be focused on preventing injury rather than waiting for it to happen and then suing to obtain a financial remedy that never adequately compensates for injuries or deaths. What will improve public safety is to ensure builders have the right to be notified, and the opportunity to immediately repair, potential defects before injuries occur.
Currently, a lawsuit is often the builder’s first notification of a potential defect. But lawyers don’t fix construction deficiencies, builders do. This existing process ensures that lawyers get rich, and that homes and buildings aren’t fixed as quickly as they could be.
Contrary to what The Sacramento Bee’s editorial claims, builders do not support keeping out-of-court settlements secret. In fact, our industry has long supported proposals to record settlements with the Office of the County Recorder where the property is located. However, these efforts have been opposed by the influential trial attorney lobby, and ultimately defeated.
Sen. Hill’s intentions are admirable; this bill won’t achieve his aims.
That is why our industry is calling on him to join us in supporting legislation that increases transparency so that home and building owners are aware of previous defects, and that ensures builders have a right to be notified of a defect and the opportunity to inspect and make the necessary repairs before litigation.
Dave Cogdill is president and CEO of the California Building Industry Association.