The Iowa legislature has voted to narrow the window for Iowans to file lawsuits about construction complaints.
Under current law, Iowans have 15 years to take legal action after discovering construction defects in their home or business. The bill that has cleared both the House and Senate would give homeowners a decade to file a lawsuit over serious flaws in construction.
Commercial property owners would have an 8-year window for these kind of lawsuits that aren’t about injuries to people, but alleged faults in the construction.
Representative Kevin Koester, a Republican from Ankeny, says Iowa is out of step with every other state and contractors here have to pay more for insurance.
“This bill is good for our state,” Koester says. “It will reduce costs. Over time that’ll have a calming effect also on premiums. Over time, there will be lower cost, actually, of that kind of insurance.”
The bill also aligns with the GOP’s pledge to reduce regulations, according to Koester.
“Protection and regulation come with a cost,” Koester says. “Homebuilders inform us that 25 percent of the cost of new home construction is strictly from the cost of regulation on building that home.”
Representative Mary Wolfe, a Democrat from Clinton, says the bill helps negligent contractors who do things like use shoddy materials.
“Taking away protections from everyday Iowans who are just trying to buy a house that will last them the rest of their lives,” Wolfe says.
Representative Brian Meyer, a Democrat from Des Moines, says the narrower time frame for lawsuits about construction faults may prevent homeowners from getting compensated for defects like black mold that often appear long after construction.
“Your average, every day person is getting completely rolled on this,” Meyer says.
The bill advanced out of the Iowa Senate with the votes of all the Republicans and a couple of Democrats. It was a party-line vote when the bill cleared the House earlier this week. It’s now headed to Governor Branstad for his consideration.
Former Republican Governor Robert Ray vetoed similar legislation in 1980 and former Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack rejected a bill like this in 2001.