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Legislature Working on Bill to Protect Homeowners

Only on 8
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CARSON CITY -- We have an update on a story we've been following for more than three weeks.

It's the story of Reno-area homeowners who paid money for homes that were never built. Those homeowners testified before the Nevada Senate last week, and on Friday the Senate ammended a bill to make sure something like this never happens again.

Friday was an important day for those homeowners who were left with little recourse. First, the State Senate amended a bill to include stricter regulations and penalties for contractors in Nevada. Second, senior management from the parent construction company of the homes' contractors attended today's senate vote and spoke out for the very first time.

The state senate committee on commerce and labor approved the amendments to Assembly Bill 220 -- amendments sparked by the testimony of people who purchased homes at Bella Terra in Arrowcreek in south Reno and at Canterbury Place in northwest Reno. The homeowners testified that Solano Development took their money and never completed their homes.

"It will make criminal prosecution easier for the district attorney's office and for us when the statute is clear," said Nevada State Contractors Board representative Margi Grein.

The amended bill broadens the definition of "construction fraud" to include diversion of funds, meaning when money for one project is used to pay for another, diversion of funds would then be treated as a felony punishable by a fine and time spent in state prison.

The bill also requires new residential contractors and contractors up for their yearly license renewal to provide the Contractor's Board with evidence of financial responsibility. If the contractor's finances are in question, the board can then require them to do a number of things, including using a construction control company which would hold all monies paid to the builder by the homeowner.

"If you're using an independent construction company to build your home, please consider -- to the public -- using a construction control company," said State Senator Warren Hardy, R-Clark County. "It may add a percentage to the cost of the home, but the headaches it will eventually prevent are immeasurable."

Today's senate committee vote was attended by Bill Rheinschild, the owner of RWR Homes -- the company who has a financial interest in Solano Development and Sierra Sage. The contractor's board suspended both companies' licenses after construction halted mid-way through their Reno-area projects.

RWR Homes Executive Vice President Craig Hamilton spoke on behalf of Rheinschild and their company.

"He's here to help commit money and people and help to identify the problem you've been reporting on, and take correct action on the problems you've been reporting on and solve the problems you've been reporting on," Hamilton said in an interview with KOLO News Channel 8.

Hamilton says last week's senate hearing was the first time he heard about many of these problems.

"What happened with construction just stopping?" he asked. "I don't necessarily want to go back into the history of it. I just want to work on what I can do to help get it fixed."

Hamilton says they are securing funding to try and get everything fixed, and that they will be more than happy to get anyone who is owed money their money back.

"I'd like to see every one of these problems resolved to the highest levels of satisfaction that we can, and then to be able to say we solved these problems," Hamilton said. "We like doing business here."

Hamilton is inviting any homeowner affected by Solano Development or Sierra Sage to give him a call at his Southern California office. The number is 818-780-3334, extension 13.

Investigators from the state contractors board will be touring the homes that are still not complete next week, and then both Solano and Sierra Sage will have their hearing before the state contractors board on June 3. That hearing will decide the fate of their construction licenses.

KOLO News Channel 8 will be covering both of those events as well as following this bill as it makes its way to the Governor's desk.

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