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Thursday, June 6, 2013

BONNEN PASSES TWIA BILL TO ELIMINATE BURDENSOME HOME MODIFICATIONS

BONNEN PASSES TWIA BILL TO ELIMINATE BURDENSOME HOME MODIFICATIONS
Vol. 9, No. 11
 
Last fall, coastal property owners who are insured by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association under the waiver program received a notice detailing the structural modifications that must be done to their homes within one year in order to continue their coverage.  Understandably, this created a widespread panic not only within our area, but along the entire Gulf coast.
 
I heard the concerns of District 25's citizens and responded by authoring HB 3007, along with Senator Larry Taylor's companion bill, SB 1702.  We successfully passed our legislation during the final days of session after encountering several hurdles associated with the ever-contentious issue of TWIA.
 
The TWIA waiver program allows coverage on residential structures for which owners are unable to produce a certificate of building code compliance.  While the overall intent of the program is to help coastal property owners, the waiver rules and requirements have become increasingly confusing and burdensome.
 
The far-reaching impact of TWIA's notice requiring a WPI-12 under the Alternative Eligibility Certification Program not only brought great concern to homeowners, but also created  negative consequences for mortgages and the real estate market.  The structural modifications under the WPI-12 Program were expensive and invasive, especially for homeowners of limited financial means.  The required changes -- including an entire re-roof or exterior wall coverings for the entire structure -- were also not a cost-effective investment for older and lower valued properties.
 
The passage of my legislation abolishes the Alternative Eligibility Certification program and the WPI-12 requirements.  In effect, this means it eliminates the requirement for expensive and burdensome modifications to continue TWIA coverage.
 
Since 2009, the Texas Legislature has amended and expanded the TWIA waiver program each legislative session to make it easier for the coastal population to obtain TWIA coverage.  In order to pass SB 1702 this session, I had to concede to my colleague's wishes to terminate the waiver programs after December 31, 2015.  After this date, structures must be inspected for compliance with the building code in TWIA’s plan of operation that was in effect on the date the structure was built, repaired, remodeled, altered, enlarged, or added to in order to get or renew coverage through TWIA.  The bill has an exemption for structures built prior to January 1, 1988. 
 
While the termination of the waiver program after December 31, 2015 may cause lingering concerns regarding the need for future structural modifications, it is important to note that the Texas Legislature will convene in another regular session in January 2015.  Just as we have historically addressed this issue every two years since 2009, we will have the opportunity to once again make changes with the goal of long-term, comprehensive revisions to TWIA laws that would take effect well before the waiver program terminates.
 
In the meantime, I also continue my ongoing efforts to address continued problems that plague the overall future stability of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.  While several of my bills to overhaul the funding and claims management mechanisms of TWIA were unsuccessful during the regular session, I am encouraged by the heightened recognition and desire to find a solution that protects coastal homeowners as the Legislature moves forward.