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Fort Collins homeowner says bill that would change definition of construction defect is absurd

Owner must suffer damage, loss of use or injury
Posted at 9:40 PM, Feb 15, 2017

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – When lawmakers convened for the 2017 legislative session, there was hope that both Republicans and Democrats could reach a bipartisan agreement on construction defects.

Several bills have or will be introduced.

One, SB17-155, has drawn the ire of an outspoken Fort Collins homeowner.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, and Rep. Lori Saine, R-Weld County, seeks to redefine the term "construction defect" to mean, "a defect in the design or construction of any improvement to real property that causes damage, the loss of use or personal injury."

“It’s absurd,” said Fort Collins homeowner Michael Pretz. “You have to have a bad outcome before you can consider it a construction deficit.”

Pretz said he and his neighbors sued their developer because some of the attics in their townhomes didn’t have adequate drywall between the firewalls, and because retaining walls were not built with adequate anchors.

“I worked in the fire service for 35 years,” he said. “When you get a fire that goes unchecked from unit to unit, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Pretz said under this proposed bill, you wouldn’t have any recourse unless there was a fire that caused significant damage.

He said if the firewalls are inadequate, homeowners should be able to get them remedied without having to suffer damage, loss of use or personal injury.

“Not putting the drywall on firewalls is not an oversight,” he said. “It’s shoddy construction, meant to save money.”

He said the homeowners in his development won their lawsuit and that the firewalls and retaining walls are going to be repaired.

The retaining walls, built with 6 X 6 timbers, are bowing outward because the perpendicular “deadmen” anchors aren’t long enough.

“The anchors are supposed to be as long, as the wall is high,” Pretz said, adding, “I’ve learned more about retaining walls than I ever thought I would.”

Pretz told Denver7 that as the retaining walls push outward, the earth behind them pulls away from the townhomes.

“It’s moving the porches and patios away from the homes,” he said.

Pretz pointed to one adjacent home where the back step has dropped nearly two inches and the patio pavers are no longer leveled.

Construction companies have lobbied the legislature claiming they’re faced with frivolous lawsuits, but Pretz doesn’t believe this bill is the answer.

He said if homebuilders built them right the first time, instead of trying to save a buck, “the construction defect problem would be greatly reduced.”

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