Close My House Today ... or Else!

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Florida home builders would have been subject to penalties of as much as $1,000 a day for missing promised delivery dates on new homes under a bill recently introduced by state Sen. Betty Holzendorf, a Jacksonville Democrat.

April 01, 2002

Florida home builders would have been subject to penalties of as much as $1,000 a day for missing promised delivery dates on new homes under a bill recently introduced by state Sen. Betty Holzendorf, a Jacksonville Democrat. A similar bill was introduced in the Florida House by Rep. Frank Peterman, a St. Petersburg Democrat.

Builders across the state reacted with rage, and occasionally with humor, to the proposal, which never made it out of committee. “There are a lot of things that can make a house late, and many of them are completely beyond the control of the builder,” said Lee Wetherington, a Sarasota builder. “What if the buyer fails to make color, option and upgrade selections on time? Who gets fined in that case? If the state tried to impose a requirement to deliver houses on time, who would determine what the completion date should be? If it’s up to me, I’d set the date about two years out.”

“It’s ridiculous,” said Sarasota Home Builders Association president John Cannon. “We can’t foresee materials shortages. We can’t predict the weather.”

Still, the proposal drew support from Richard J. Roll, president of the American Homebuyers Association, based in Stamford, Conn. “The differential between contractors’ promises and buyers’ expectations is often too wide, and wider than it needs to be, because there’s no vehicle in place to ensure it,” he told the Bradenton Herald. “The existence of a provision such as this would force all concerned to arrive at a realistic understanding.”

Bradenton builder Pat Neal, a former Florida state senator, said the bill was an ill-advised response to a closing delay that affected Holzendorf personally. “I like Betty Holzendorf,” Neal said. “She represents inner-city Jacksonville, but I think she knows now that this isn’t the way to handle the problem.”

Doug Buck, director of governmental affairs for the Florida HBA, said, “It died in committee. It’s gone now, and the less said about it the better.”

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