Napolitano vetoes bill on home-builder suits
By Chris Fiscus and Chip Scutari
Article Courtesy of The Arizona Republic
May 09, 2003 

Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed a bill that would have made it more difficult for homeowners associations to sue home builders for allegedly shoddy work.

The bill, which was the home-building industry's top priority of the legislative session, would have required that a majority of HOA residents voting in an election give the OK for an association to file a construction-defects suit.

"We're disappointed. Realtors, homeowners, subcontractors all agreed that homeowners should have a voice before communities are stigmatized by litigation," said Spencer Kamps, deputy director of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona. "We simply said homeowners want a voice. When you put the HOA assets at risk, homeowners ought to have a say."

Critics say House Bill 2034 would have hindered attempts to go after builders for construction problems, limiting the ability to correct defects such as leaky roofs and windows, cracking walls or poor stucco. They also said it arrived less than a year after a much-publicized compromise that gives builders 90 days to fix defects before owners can sue. 

"We just didn't think it was the right time to be imposing some more hurdles for homeowners," said Tim Nelson, Napolitano's legal counsel. "That was the main reason."

Napolitano said she used her veto because she failed to see "a compelling reason to impose additional hurdles to bringing home defect litigation."

And she also questioned the constitutionality of the bill, saying the state constitution includes provisions that "the right of action to recover damages for injuries shall never be abrogated."

Kevin DeMenna, a lobbyist for a collection of homeowners association boards across Arizona, applauded Napolitano's veto.

"At the Legislature, there are two reasons why you should do things: because you should do something and because you can do something. This falls into the latter category," DeMenna said. "There's no compelling reason to abrogate the rights of homeowners."

The veto came even though the home-builders association had made a sizable contribution to the governor's inaugural gala. 

Curtis Ekmark, who specializes in representing HOAs, called the veto "a huge step in the right direction."

"I'm happy, especially for the people who are going to be buying homes in the next five years," he said, as the bill would have made it more difficult to correct construction woes.