David McLain | Higgins, Hopkins, McLain & Roswell
Would you believe me if I told you that this year could have been worse for builders? Had COVID-19 not hit, the Colorado Legislature may have passed bills that would have had a severely negative impact on the home building industry. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature temporarily adjourned in mid-March, 67 days into the 120-day legislative session. After a two-month recess, the Legislature returned for approximately one month to pass critical bills including the state budget, the school finance act and what to do with the money from the federal CARES Act. Of the bills on the calendar when the Legislature temporarily adjourned, legislators focused on those that were “fast, free, and friendly,” and let the others fall by the wayside.
Bills that died included SB 20-138, which would have extended Colorado’s statute of repose for construction defect claims from six plus two years to 10 plus two years. The bill also contained a number of accrual and tolling provisions, which would have made it harder for builders to convince tribunals that claims were untimely. This bill died on the Senate floor, for lack of support. We will see whether plaintiffs’ attorneys will revive this effort next year.
SB 20-093, while not an outright ban on arbitration or a legislative overturning of the Vallagio decision, would have made it harder to administer and more difficult to get cases into arbitration. The bill died under the “fast, free, and friendly” test, i.e., it faced too much opposition. I expect to see this bill again next year, in some form.
HB 20-1046 would have limited retainage to 5% on certain construction contracts. The bill also included requirements on timing of payments, interest on late payments, and attorneys’ fees and costs to be awarded to those who sued for late or non-payment. The bill died in committee prior to the COVID-19 recess in the face of opposition from owners’ groups. It remains to be seen whether this bill will be rerun next year.
The Legislature did pass a number of bills that will impact the home building community. Among them, HB 20-1155 will require, once it goes into effect, home builders to offer: a solar panel system, a solar thermal system or both; prewiring or pre-plumbing for the solar systems; and a chase or conduit for future installation of such systems. The bill will further require builders to offer: an electric vehicle charging system; prewiring for the future installation for such a system; or a plug-in receptacle in a place accessible to a vehicle parking area. Finally, the bill will require builders to offer electrical heating systems.
Buckle up for next year when some or all of the unsuccessful bills from this year return, and the plaintiffs’ bar takes another crack at the home building industry.