Our legislative agenda offers solutions for common challenges within the rental housing industry.
TAA supports legislation to clarify the process for resolving water billing disputes between a resident and rental property owner. Proposed legislation would require residents to pursue simpler and less costly administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit.
Most apartment residents don’t pay a water bill from a utility company. Instead, the property pays the utility company, then bills the residents for water they’ve used, following rules governed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC). Under PUC rules, water costs may either be submetered by individual rental unit or allocated across a property. The PUC governs all aspects of water billing by rental property owners (including billing methodology), disclosures to residents, and requirements to repair leaks and provide water-efficient devices. Rental property owners may not profit off a water bill.
Residents may challenge costs by contacting their property owner, bringing a complaint to the PUC or filing a lawsuit. Some residents have chosen to file lawsuits before trying to address their complaints through less costly and time-consuming alternatives. Requiring residents to bring a dispute to the PUC first, before filing a lawsuit, encourages more timely resolution of a dispute and conserves judicial resources for those claims that cannot be resolved otherwise.
TAA supports legislation to more clearly define what can be considered a reasonable late fee when a resident is late paying rent.
If a resident fails to pay rent on time, the rental property owner may charge a late fee. These fees must meet certain statutory requirements including notice in the lease and be “a reasonable estimate of uncertain damages.” Because the current definition in the law is subject to interpretation, both residents and property owners can be confused about what is acceptable. By defining these fees more clearly, residents and property owners will have more clarity around the issue.
TAA supports expanding current state law to provide penalties when a resident or prospective resident misrepresents the need for an assistance animal in their rental home.
Texas law currently prevents someone from misrepresenting the need for a guide dog or other service animals in public accommodations like hotels and restaurants. However, there are not similar provisions in rental housing, where property owners are obligated under the Fair Housing Act to provide equal access to housing accommodations for all protected classes, including a person with a disability who requires an assistance animal.
Unfortunately, some renters try to take advantage of the law by misrepresenting their status as a person with a disability and attempting to claim a personal pet as a legitimate assistance animal. Falsely representing a pet’s status is unfair to those with legitimate needs.
TAA supports legislation to require municipalities to place notice and rationale for fee increases on their budgets’ cover pages. These are the same steps currently required when adopting an increase for local property taxes.
Many times when municipalities raise fees, the increases are buried deep within city budgets. This makes it difficult for interested parties to find relevant information, even though these fee increases can have a significant negative impact on taxpayers. In addition to fee increases being difficult to spot, there may not be opportunity to comment before they are enacted since there is often a lack of notice concerning proposed fee increases. By requiring municipalities to be more transparent in their fee increase proposals, citizens will be able to understand and comment prior to changes being made.
TAA supports efforts, such as Texas Senate Bill 2, to institute needed reforms like lowering the property tax rollback rate from 8 percent to 4 percent, establishing expert panels to hear appraisal appeals involving complex properties, and mandating more consistent practices by appraisal districts.
Throughout its 50+ year history, TAA has advocated for a property tax system that treats all taxpayers equitably. TAA’s leadership in this policy area has provided important benefits for the rental housing industry in Texas. These benefits include defeating measures to require sales price disclosure, opposing split rolls for property taxes and ensuring equal and uniform valuations.