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Nevada construction defects reform law clears first committee

CARSON CITY — A bill sought by Republican lawmakers to make changes to Nevada’s construction defect law passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Friday on an 8-5 party-line vote.

Assembly Bill 125 was amended slightly to address concerns by Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, about perjury language when homeowners make complaints about defects in their homes. The perjury language was removed from the bill.

Called by supporters the Homeowner Protections Act of 2015, the bill would restrict the definition of what constitutes a home defect, repeal a provision allowing attorneys fees and costs in a home defect judgment, and require specific descriptions of defects.

The bill was introduced just a week ago and discussed at a joint hearing of the Assembly and Senate Judiciary committees on Wednesday. It is the latest measure sought by Republican lawmakers who are enjoying their new majority status in the Legislature. The changes sought by Republicans have been pushed without success for years.

The committee vote came just two days after the joint hearing.

The bill is supported by home builders but opposed by some trial attorneys.

It has become a partisan issue in the Legislature.

AB125 now goes to the Assembly floor for a vote, then on to the Senate if it passes. The bill requires only a simple majority vote to go to Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Committee member Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, who voted against the measure, said he is concerned that the bill comes at the expense of homeowners and the middle class.

“I believe access to justice is an extremely important consumer issue,” he said.

Judiciary Chairman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said many elements of the bill come from measures introduced in previous sessions that were sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats.

“The internal workings of this thing are truly bipartisan,” he said.

The bill also proposes to address an issue raised in a series of Review-Journal reports about a federal investigation into a scheme to take over local homeowners association boards. One objective of the takeovers was to trump up construction defects, then steer the HOA to hire a conspiring attorney to sue the contractor.

Once the contractor paid, the work of “fixing” the alleged defects would go to a confederated construction company that would do little or no work to “fix” the trumped-up problems and pocket payment from HOAs, all made possible by the litigation.

AB125 would eliminate a provision allowing an HOA board to bring a defect case on behalf of homes in the HOA upon a vote. It proposes to allow HOA boards to bring defect claims for common elements and common areas only.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

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