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Proposal would regulate builders

Homebuilders would have to pay $300 a year and register with
the state Attorney General’s office if a proposed state House bill is adopted.

Homebuilders would have to pay $300 a year and register with
the state Attorney General’s office if a proposed state House bill is adopted.

The measure would try to keep customers from losing deposit
money to fraudulent builders who take the money but never build the houses.

Registration fees would be placed in a pool and used to pay
back customers who take builders to court and win, said Rep. Frank Andrews
Shimkus (D-Lackawanna
County), who drafted the
bill. Customers who use a homebuilder not registered with the state would not
be covered by the proposed bill, according to the legislation.

Builders would be subjected to background checks if House
Bill (HB) 1821 were adopted. Their businesses would be given state registration
numbers, which would have to be listed on transaction slips, Shimkus said.

Shimkus drafted the New Home Construction Consumer
Protection Act in response to an incident in his district, he said. A builder
was accused of taking a deposit from a customer who never got his house, he
said. The builder that allegedly ripped off the man was arrested and is due to
stand trial, Shimkus said.

After he crafted the bill, Shimkus said he received many
more calls from others across the state who complained of similar experiences.
One resident lost a $50,000 down payment he placed on a retirement home he
wanted to build in Mercer
County, Shimkus said.

More debate will continue before the bill heads to the House
floor. The registration fee could be lowered, he said. The bill has received
bipartisan support in the house, he said.

“I don’t want to ram something down builders’ throats,”
Shimkus said. “I would like to work with them to come up with something that
helps the people who want to get the American dream of a home but doesn’t hurt
home builders.”

Craig Deimler said he has no problem registering his
business, but he wants the registration fees to be used only to pay back
customers who hire builders that register with the state, he said.

Deimler is vice president of Swatara Township-based Deimler
& Sons Construction Inc. The company builds and remodels homes.

The legislation would require every homebuilder to be
registered with the state. If they don’t register and a customer hires that
contractor, the Attorney General’s office would investigate and have
jurisdiction over approving a claim, a spokesman for Shimkus said.

Deimler said he is also concerned the bill could lead to
even more legislation.

Any bill that attempts to regulate builders in Pennsylvania should be modeled after such bills in other
states, such as California and Florida, where
examinations and continued education are expected of builders, Deimler said.

“Think about what it takes to be a doctor or a teacher. You
can hang a shingle or sign to the side of your truck, and you can be a
contractor. You can do it now without paying the $300 fee. If it’s done
properly, I am all for it,” Deimler said of the bill.

The registration fee might be a sticking point with members
of The Home Builders

Association of Metropolitan Harrisburg, said Keith Ashley,
director of government affairs for the association.

Most association members are against the proposed bill, but
some do support it, Ashley said.

Most believe they shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes of
unethical builders, he said. Almost every industry has its share of fraudulent
businesspeople, and most members don’t think the bill will stop criminals in
the industry, Ashley said.

Some are happy it would bring more safeguards to the
house-building industry, he said. The association is encouraged that the bill
prevents local governments from instituting similar measures, he said.

“We understand that the Attorney General’s office is
interested, and it is likely that some sort of registration is going to
happen,” Ashley said. “It does give a level of protection, and it helps keep
people from getting ripped off, and we are concerned about that.”

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