As if the housing industry does not have enough problems, there is a legislative loophole that allows the federal government to seize homes that were built with illegal foreign wood products, even if the homeowner and home builder were unaware of the products' origin. In view of this, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has requested that Congress amend the Lacey Act so that individuals and businesses that unknowingly purchase illegal wood products from overseas do not have their property seized while becoming exposed to civil and criminal liability.
Testifying before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs, Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the NAHB and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla., noted that the Lacey Act is written in a manner that leaves innocent companies without legal standing to challenge the government taking in court.
As a result, the NAHB argues, both builders and consumers who buy wood products that encompass the entire supply chain dealing with imported wood products (lumber, cabinets, guitars, etc.) are held personally liable to certify that the timber product did not come from plant material that was taken, transported, possessed or sold in violation of any foreign law.
‘Unequivocally, we do not support illegal logging in any place at any time,’ said Rutenberg ‘However, honest business owners, including home builders who exercise due care and had no knowledge that a seized product contains illegal wood, should have the right to seek the return of those goods.’
The NAHB is urging Congress to amend the Lacey Act to include reaffirmation of civil forfeiture law so that innocent consumers and businesses would have the opportunity to seek the return of their property in court if it was seized as a result of any enforcement actions under the Lacey Act.