BATON ROUGE—A bill that would have limited the amount of time that can elapse before a real estate appraiser is sued for an error failed in the Louisiana House of Representatives earlier this year, but the legislative assistant who brought the bill to its sponsor said he and others are planning to revive the measure next year and think it will pass then.
The bill, HB580, was sponsored by Rep. Raymond Garofalo (R-103). It would have drastically shortened the time period that people could bring suit against a real estate appraiser for a mistake. It would have required that a lawsuit be filed either within one year of the error or omission, or within one year of the discovery of the error or omission, but no more than three years after the error or omission occurred.
“It was going to bring the ability of anyone to sue appraisers under the same deadline as everyone else can be sued under,” John Scurich, legislative assistant to Garofalo, told the Louisiana Record.
“For some reason, appraisers are the only entity in the state of Louisiana where an error or omission—a mistake made by an appraiser—doesn't happen until someone discovers it, even if it was years and years after the appraisal was done. Lawyers, doctors, everyone else has a time prescription where you can discover and error and sue them. We were just trying to bring the appraisers up to par with everyone else, which seems reasonable and fair.”
Scurich said he was surprised to find out about the quirk in the law, and that Garofalo had a hard time believing the situation when he first heard about it. Scurich and Garofalo worked with the Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board, especially executive director Bruce Unangst, to draft the legislation.
When the bill came up for a vote on the floor of the House, it didn’t have much opposition, Schurich said, but some members didn’t understand the purpose, and others had questions about the bill. It failed 45-47, eight votes short of what would have been needed to pass. Because Louisiana requires an absolute majority—as opposed to a majority of those who voted—for a bill to pass, the fact that some legislators didn’t understand the importance of the measure and thus didn’t vote also hurt it, he said.
But if the vote were held again today, he thinks the outcome might be different.
“Many legislators got calls after the fact,” he said. “I think a dozen or more legislators in the House said that if they would have known more information up front then they would have voted for it and the bill would have passed.”
There are already plans to revive the bill next year, and Scurich also thinks there might be an even simpler remedy.
“I have a simpler idea that I'm going to bring next year, and I'm going to draft the legislation myself,” he said. “That's simply going to say that an error or omission created by an appraiser—other than intentional fraud—takes place as of the date the appraisal report is signed. I think that will eliminate this whole issue by having language as simple as that.”