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Keeping the dream alive
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You’ve finally done it.  

After years of hard work and saving all you can, you’ve finally achieved the American dream — you own your own home.  

You agreed on a price with the builder of the home and financed it with a mortgage through your local bank.

Everything’s paid for and as long as you can make the mortgage payments, it’s yours.  

Or at least that’s what you thought.  

When people buy a new home they assume that because they paid the builder, everything in the house is paid for. But what happens when the builder doesn’t pay the subcontractors who did the work on the house?  

Currently in the state of Georgia, a subcontractor can file a lien against the new homeowner to recoup payment for work and materials performed on the house if the original builder doesn’t pay.

For instance if the plumber who bought and installed all the sinks, toilets, tubs, etc., in the house you bought doesn’t get paid by the builder, he can file a lien against you, even though you paid the builder for this when you bought the house.  As the law in Georgia is currently written, you as the homeowner are still liable, even though you paid the builder when you bought the house.

Fortunately, this nightmare doesn’t happen very often because most homebuilders sign a contractor’s affidavit at the time of closing stating that they have paid all subcontractors for supplies furnished and labor performed.  

While most reputable builders already sign a contractor’s affidavit and most real estate attorneys include it at closings, currently it is not a requirement in the state of Georgia.  

During the 2009 legislative session, I will be introducing legislation that will make the inclusion of a contractor’s affidavit a requirement for the purchase of a new home. This consumer friendly legislation will protect homeowners from being held liable for the misdeeds of the few dishonest builders in our state.

Another piece of legislation that I will be introducing during the upcoming session will expand the notification requirements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when they issue any new or revised flood elevations that are proposed for any property located in Georgia.

Currently, FEMA is only required to notify the chief elected official in the affected county or municipality of any proposed changes. It is then the responsibility of the county or municipality to notify the affected property owners of any proposed changes and the ability to appeal these changes.  

Although this is not the first time it has happened, this proposal comes about as a result of property in West Chatham County, near Savannah, that has been reclassified along the Hardin canal. Although FEMA followed the current law by notifying the chief elected officials, property owners and homeowners were not made aware of the changes until the appeal period had expired and the changes automatically went into effect.  

Because of the changes that went into effect, many homeowners now find their homes in a floodplain and cannot purchase flood insurance. Property owners who bought lots to build homes that are now in the floodplain will not be able to build and find their investment worthless, losing literally millions of dollars.  

The proposed legislation will require FEMA to notify each property owner affected in writing by certified mail addressed to the owner of record as shown on the property and tax records of the county in which the property is located.  

The county and municipal governments also will be required to be notified by certified mail.

While home ownership remains the American dream, hopefully these new measures will help to prevent it from being a nightmare.