I wish to bring to your attention a problem that has festered in Texas for a long time but
has recently become a very serious issue and growing rapidly. Many people or entities
posing as general contractors are taking countless unsuspecting homeowners and would-be homeowners for their life savings.
Every day, self-proclaimed contractors approach consumers with promises of completion
of a repair, an addition, or maybe a full ground-up construction. All too often, after
receiving vast amounts of the funding up front, the contractor then leaves the project far
from completed and often in a state of such disrepair that it will cost the victim an
unobtainable amount to repair.
Whether the contractor is incompetent, unknowing of business costs, or just plain
unscrupulous, it is a problem that has left hapless consumers unprotected from great
losses at little fault of their own other than by trusting what they thought to be a qualified
vendor of goods and services they are seeking.
The uncontrolled, unregulated industry of these services makes it extremely easy for
perpetrators to legally approach their victims, take their money, and leave. After doing so,
it turns out that the betrayer has, in the eyes of the law, done nothing more serious than
commit a breach of contract. Once the homeowner has realized that there is a problem,
they find that the so-called contract has little binding tenet. At this point, there is little
recourse to the homeowner. Only by spending yet another fortune on legal and
professional services fees can they have any hope of recovering any of their losses, and
only then if the offender has any of the funds left available. The State and legal system
offer no assistance in recovering their loss.
This scenario is carried out as an all too often, if not daily, occurrence. And as long as
there is a blind-eye approach to residential construction by Austin legislators in ignoring
the roots of the problem, the bilking of Texans will continue. It will keep happening as long
as Texas has:
- No adopted statewide adopted residential building code.
- No qualifications requirement for a residential general contractor.
- No licensing requirement for a residential general contractor.
- No bonding or insurance requirement for a residential general contractor.
- No consumer protection agency to oversee the Residential construction industry.
- Minimal required oversight of a project’s design by a licensed design professional.
- Insufficient requirement for permitting and involved plan review/ inspection.
- No enforced requirement for third-party verification or inspection.
All regardless of the cost or size of the project.
I must interject at this point that I know that there are many quality home builders who
actively seek to provide quality services to their customers, and this is not to say that the
shady operation is the norm. Unfortunately though, the undercutting practices of the
aforementioned bilkers make it more and more difficult for the reputable builders to make a
living doing quality work.
As a licensed engineer, I have been designing in the residential arena for a long time.
Additionally, I am actively serving on a national building code committee and have been
able to see how construction is approached in many other parts of the country. Most of it
leaves Texas residential construction a shame. With no other state building more homes
than Texas (Statista, 2020), we should be setting an example, not taking a back seat.
In my business, I am seeing these things happen more and more frequently. I am
approached by shell-shocked potential clients looking for guidance, and there is none. I
have a great deal of discussion that I could provide to you if there is a viable desire to look
into it. I would be willing to lend my experience and expertise on working toward a solution
Please let me know if this is something you see as worthy of a solution.
Jerry D. Coombs, P.E.