State Issues

Numerous laws are enacted every two years at the state level. In 2017, more than 6,800 bills were introduced in the Texas Legislature. Out of those bills, 1,217 passed and were signed into law.

Below is a recap of bills that passed - and failed to pass - during the 85th Regular Session and Special Session of the Texas Legislature. This information has been provided by the Texas Apartment Association (TAA).

Bills that passed

Water billing (SB 873 / HB 1964) – Protects property owners from facing class action lawsuits over water billing disputes, while still ensuring residents can have complaints investigated through the Public Utility Commission (PUC).

Status: Effective June 1, 2017

City fees (HB 1499) – Cities will be prohibited from charging linkage fees or other development-based fees to fund affordable housing. The bill has limited exceptions, including allowing density bonus programs.

Status: Effective May 29, 2017

Towing (SB 1501) – The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation will be writing rules to allow a property owner to tow a vehicle to a different location on a property rather than an offsite vehicle storage facility. This clear authority will be useful, for example, when a property needs to restripe a parking lot to do repairs.

Status: Effective June 15, 2017

Evictions (HB 3879) – In an appeal for an eviction for nonpayment of rent, a multifamily property owner may be represented by a non-attorney in certain cases. NOTE: Eviction appeals may be complex and are subject to different rules than those used in JP court. TAA strongly encourages any property owner with an eviction case on appeal to use an attorney, and, if not, to be fully aware of any potential consequences for representing themselves or using a non-attorney.

Status: Effective for appeals taken on or after September 1, 2017

Limits on local tree ordinances (HB 7) – Dozens of cities and towns across Texas have ordinances protecting trees on private property - in many cases, property owners either have to pay a fee or plant new trees if they cut down larger trees on their land. HB 7 allows property owners to plant new trees to offset city fees for tree removal on their land.

Status: Effective December 1, 2017

Property tax arbitration (SB 731) – Raises the ceiling on the value of property eligible for binding arbitration as an alternative to appealing to district court to $5 million from the current $3 million, and sets a $1,550 arbitration deposit for non-homestead properties valued between $3 million and $5 million.

Status: Effective September 1, 2017

Disability accessibility drive-by claims (HB 1463) – TAA supported this bill to reduce state court disability accessibility claims by providing pre-suit notice and an opportunity to cure.

Status: Effective September 1, 2017

Weather-related insurance claims (HB 1774) – After the bill went through revisions to improve consumer rights, TAA supported passage of major lawsuit reform legislation to reduce excessive property damage insurance claims, including those related to hail and other water-related events.

Status: Effective September 1, 2017

Municipal annexation reform (SB 6) – Prior to the passage of SB 6, Texas was one of the only states still allowing involuntary annexation – a practice permitting home-rule cities to unilaterally capture property owners living just outside city limits. SB 6 requires big cities (populations of 500,000 or more) to hold a public vote before annexing anyone who has chosen to reside in an unincorporated area. The new law also contains an opt-in provision that allows voters in any county to petition to be included in the protections under the law.

Status: Effective December 1, 2017

Ten other new laws beginning September 1, 2017

HB 25 — Eliminates straight-ticket party voting when casting an election ballot.

HB 29 — Allows state lottery winners who win more than $1 million to remain anonymous and prohibits the release of all personal information to the public.

HB 1424 — Prohibits drones and other small aircraft from flying over correction facilities like jails and prisons, and sports venues such as stadiums or facilities with more than 30,000 seats.

SB 693 — Mandates that a school bus be equipped with a three-point seat belt for every passenger. The bill only applies to buses that are 2018-and-newer models.

SB 16 — Reduces the first-time fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 and the annual renewal fee from $70 to $40.

HB 810 — Allows patients with a severe chronic disease to use stem cell treatment.

SB 179 — Mandates that schools adopt policies related to cyberbullying and requires that schools report offenses. This law also created a new definition of cyberbullying.

HB 478 — If a person enters into a motor vehicle to remove a vulnerable individual, such as a child, that person is immune from civil liability for damage that may occur from entry.

HB 214 — Requires the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals to have audio and video recordings of oral arguments and public meetings available — if funds are made available.

HB 1099 — Says landlords cannot prohibit a tenant’s right to call police or emergency assistance.


Bills that did not pass

Lien law revision (HB 3065) – This would have overhauled Texas lien laws, increased owner liability and shifted the burden of responsibility to the property owner. TAA worked with a broad coalition of real estate interests to oppose this effort.

JP jurisdictional limit (HB 2573) – Two efforts would have raised value limit of matters over which justice courts have jurisdiction from $10,000 to $15,000 or $20,000 respectively.

Short term rentals (SB 451) – Legislation that would have created clear standards for how municipalities could regulate short term rentals passed the Senate but died in the House. TAA supported the bill, which had provisions stating that the bill did not affect a property owner’s rights under the Property Code.

Letters for tax credit properties (HB 616) – An effort to remove state representative letters as part of the criteria for scoring low income housing tax credit program applications failed. TAA was one of many groups representing developers and low-income housing advocates that supported the bill.

Gun liability (HB 606) – Several bills were filed this session that could have shifted liability on a property owner depending on whether a concealed carry and/or open carry was allowed on the premises. TAA expressed concerns about bills that would have changed longstanding premises liability law and those that created a cause of action against a property owner for prohibiting guns.

Title insurance (HB 4239 / SB 2203) – TAA supported two title insurance reform bills that did not pass this session.

Statute of repose (HB 1053) – This bill would have reduced the statute of repose for construction defect claims against architects, designers or engineers from 10 to 5 years. The statute of repose is a statutory way to cut off legal rights if they are not acted on by a certain deadline. Since this bill failed, owners will still have 10 years after substantial completion of a project to sue the contractor for a construction defect.