Texas 2013 Legislative Update: Changes in Texas Property Law

The recent 83rd Legislative Session in Texas passed a variety of changes to the Texas Property Code, Tax Code, and Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The amendments, reforms, and other changes include, for example, modifications to the ways appraisal review boards conduct hearings, changes to landlord tenant law, protections for veterans seeing their property taxes increase, and empowering landowners to make effective use of their adjacent residential lots. Some of these changes are briefly described below:

  • S.B. No. 630: Landlord Obligations to Timely Provide Executed Copy of LeaseEffective on 1/1/14
    • The Legislature created Texas Property Code 92.024, which requires landlords to provide tenants with the fully executed copy of the lease within three business days after being fully executed. Failure to strictly comply with this law can delay the remedies available to a landlord in certain lease default situations.
  • H.B. No. 35: Homeowner’s Residential Use of Adjacent LotsEffective immediately
    • Homeowners are now permitted to use adjacent lots they own for residential purposes. These purposes must be those that typically are adjacent to a home, such as for a garage, swimming pool, or other functions. Residential restrictions such as setbacks and height limitations still apply, and property owners still need to obtain approvals from the city, county, and/or home owner’s association(s) in regards to plans and/or necessary permits.
    • However, the bill states that property owner’s associations “may not adopt or enforce a provision… that prohibits or restricts… [an owner from] using for residential purposes an adjacent lot…. A provision in a dedicatory instrument that violates this section is void.
    • Also, the law requires homeowners to convey both of the improved lots together, meaning the home plus the adjacent improvement; or the owner must remove the improvement and restore the adjacent lot to its unused condition.
  • H.B. No. 585: Property Tax ChangesEffective 6/14/2013
    • Texas County Appraisal Districts have the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence, an increased standard of evidence, the value of property in situations where the appraisal was lowered, the appraised value was not established by written agreement, or if the property owner timely provides certain information prior to the hearing (usually 14 days).
    • Applications for tax refunds are presumed denied if there is no answer on or before ninety days after the application is filed. Property owners no longer have a duty to provide information in a Sec. 41.41 Protest Hearing and don’t waive their rights to appear by filing an affidavit prior to the appearance.
    • Property owners must now file suit in order to collect denied refunds. If the taxpayer prevails, they may be awarded costs of court and reasonable attorney’s fees not to exceed $1,500 or 30 percent of the amount due of the refund, whichever is greater.
    • The bill also imposes various new duties and restrictions on appraisal review board members in regards to required training courses, conduct and participation in hearings, and length of service.
  • H.B. No. 699: Changes to the Designation of Locations for Real Property AuctionsEffective 10/1/2013
    • The Commissioner’s Court may now designate places other than the courthouse for public sale of real properties. The court must record the newly designated place in the real property records for the county, and the court must set the location to be within a reasonable proximity to the courthouse with similar accessibility as the courthouse itself.

– The Texas Association of Counties has released a comprehensive 2013 Legislative Analysis Report, which can be downloaded here.

– The Texas Bar Journal also has a similar 2013 Legislative Update in its September issue.

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