State Issues

2019 Legislative Session Recap

Numerous laws are enacted every two years at the state level. In 2019, more than 7,324 bills were introduced in the Texas Legislature. Out of those bills, 1,429 passed and were signed into law by the governor.

Below is a recap of bills that passed - and failed to pass - during the 86th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. This information has been provided by the Texas Apartment Association (TAA). 

Late Fee Clarification

SB 1414 by Hancock; Effective September 1, 2019

  • The Texas Apartment Association successfully advocated on behalf of members for changes in the late fees statute to bring more clarity to the late fees process.
  • The new law, which takes effect September 1, creates a set of fees that constitute a “safe harbor,” as well as allowing flexibility for owners and managers who experience higher costs associated with collecting late rent.
  • Adds an additional day to the grace period before late fees can be charged.
  • Leaves in place current law requiring late fees to be reasonable and provides penalties against owners who violate the law.
  • Creates a clear, easy to understand standard for tenants and landlords, which is lacking in current law

City Fee Transparency

HB 984 by Parker; SB 849 by Fallon; Did not pass            

Passed Senate 26-5 and House Urban Affairs 8-0 but was not scheduled for House floor debate.

This legislation would have:

  • Required the city budget cover page to list any new or increased fees and amount of revenue raised by each.
  • Required separate vote to use revenue from new/increased fees.
  • Created city email notification system/web page for fee changes.

 Property Taxes

HB 2 / SB 2; Generally Effective January 1, 2020

From the start, the state’s top elected officials were insistent on offering some measure of property tax relief. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen presented a united, public front before and during the session when presenting plans to limit property tax increases and make changes to the school finance system.

These measures will of course impact all Texans, including Texas Apartment Association members. Highlights of the property tax and school finance laws are noted below.

SB 2 by Bettencourt/Burrows              Generally effective 1/1/20

  • Limits year-over-year M&O property tax levy increases for cities, counties and special districts to 3.5 percent (currently 8 percent).
  • Automatic November election if entity wants to increase by more than 3.5 percent.
  • Effective for 2020 tax year.
  • Creates specialized ARBs in counties with 1 million -plus population for properties valued at $50 million or more (adjusted for inflation).
  • Eliminates challenges by local governments to value of an entire category of properties before an ARB.
  • Enhances the Comptroller’s role in standardizing tax rate calculations and data gathering.
  • Increases electronic financial disclosures by taxing units.

Landlord/Tenant Bills

Death of Sole Resident Lease Termination

HB 69 by Minjarez/Zaffirini – Applies to leases entered into on or after 1/1/20

This legislation codifies the right to terminate a lease upon death of a sole resident upon the later of either:

  • 30 days after landlord receives written notice from a representative of the estate, or
  • Written notice has been provided, the tenant’s belongings have been removed and the representative has signed an inventory, if requested.

Guns                                                                                                                                                  

HB 302 by Paul/Hughes – Effective 9/1/19

  • Provides that a landlord may not prohibit a tenant or guest from lawfully having a firearm or ammunition in the rental unit, leased premises or vehicle in the parking lot, or in other areas necessary to go to and from the rental unit, leased premises or vehicle.
  • Makes such possession a defense to criminal trespass, concealed carry or open carry prohibitions.
  • Does not allow weapons to be displayed in a threatening manner.

Parking  

HB 1002 by Collier/West – Applies to parking permit issued on or after 1/1/20

Provides that a parking permit must be coterminous with a lease.

Disabled Parking

HB 3163 by Springer/Menendez – Effective 9/1/19

  • Requires the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) to adopt rules for disabled parking at public accommodations (i.e. leasing office), including having “no parking” painted on the access aisle. Signage must include consequences of illegally parking in the space.
  • NOTE:  While this bill is effective 9/1/19, it may take several months before TDLR enacts implementation rules.  TAA will provide information on complying with the new law when it becomes available.

Family Violence Lease Termination                                                                                              

SB 234 by Nelson/Morrison – Effective 9/1/19

This legislation amends family violence lease termination to allow a tenant to provide additional forms of documentation, including an emergency order by a magistrate, or documentation from:

  • a licensed health care services provider;
  • a licensed mental health services provider; or
  • a trained family violence shelter “advocate.”

JP Court Jurisdiction

SB 2342 by Creighton/Leach – Effective 9/1/20

  • Increases the jurisdiction of JP courts in civil matters to include disputes of up to $20,000 (currently $10,000).
  • Does not affect the handling or prioritization of eviction cases.

Failed landlord/tenant bills

An unusually high number of more than 40 bills affecting the landlord/tenant relationship were filed in 2019—many of which TAA opposed, as introduced. Here are a few key topics that did not pass this session:

Flood Disclosure

A number of bills that would have required some form of flood disclosure by rental property owners were introduced this session. TAA opposed the bills as filed, given concerns regarding potential liability and practical issues regarding compliance. However, TAA worked with the various bill authors to develop compromise language that would have created disclosure without placing undue burdens on owners. While two of the bills (HB 993 by Coleman and HB 970 by Walle) were approved by the House, they did not pass.

Casualty Loss

SB 519 by Zaffirini and HB 3564 by Farrar would have overhauled Sec. 920.54 of the Property Code regarding the time frame and notification process when a party needs to terminate a lease because the property is uninhabitable following a disaster or other casualty loss. The legislation would also have changed the process for situations when a property is partially habitable. TAA worked with advocates supporting the bill on a compromise which failed to pass.

Criminal trespass

Efforts to allow police officers to have the option of issuing a citation for Class B misdemeanor criminal trespass offenses were unsuccessful (SB 96 by Bettencourt/Gervin-Hawkins passed the Senate and also the House Criminal Justice Committee but died in the House Calendars Committee.) The Houston Apartment Association led this effort and was supported by TAA and a broad coalition.

Limit eviction record dissemination

Several bills that would have either limited dissemination of eviction information (SB 519 by Zaffirini/HB 3569 by Farrar) or expunged certain eviction cases (HB 174 by Canales) were all unsuccessful. TAA opposed these bills.

Notice of Rent Increases

SB 624 by Neave, which would have required rental property owners to provide at least seven days notice before a rent increase failed to pass. TAA had worked to develop compromise language and supported the bill.

Method of Payment

HB 2076 by Neave which would have required a landlord to accept at least one payment method for rent and security deposits that did not include a service charge did not pass. TAA had worked to develop compromise language and supported the bill.

Obligation to Rekey

A bill that would have amended the security device statute to require locks to be rekeyed before a new tenant moved in (as compared to current law, which requires rekeying within seven days of move-in) did not pass (HB 1859 by Neave). TAA supported the bill.

Notice before Entry

A bill that would have required 48-hour notice prior to entering a tenant’s unit (HB 1860 by Neave) did not pass. TAA opposed this bill.

Mandatory CO detectors & lithium battery smoke alarms

TAA opposed HB 4358 by Sanford, which would have required installation of carbon monoxide detectors in certain properties and also required smoke alarms to be equipped with 10-year lithium batteries. The bill did not pass.

Source of Income

Two bills that would have repealed a Texas law that prohibits cities from requiring landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers if residents meet other rental criteria were unsuccessful (HB 1257 by Rosenthal/HB 2187 by Rodriguez, E.) The current law was passed at TAA’s instigation in 2015.

Eviction representation by counties

Legislation that would have given cities and counties that met certain requirements the ability to provide tenant legal services, including representation in eviction and fair housing disability cases (HB 4125 by Israel) did not pass. TAA was neutral on this bill.