State Legislative Issues – 2021 Session
Administrative Fees/Holding Fees – Prohibit hundreds of dollars in non-refundable “administrative fees” and “holding fees” as a substitute for refundable application deposits/security deposits.
Applications and Leases – Allow a tenant to back out of a lease contract and application within 5 days of receiving the key if they are not shown the dwelling prior to move-in. Amend Section 92.352 of the Property Code to include that an applicant is deemed rejected if increased fees or deposits are demanded as a condition of move-in after the initial application is submitted.
Bed Bugs – Require landlords to inspect the entire building and treat affected units if bed bugs are reported, and to disclose to current and prospective tenants if bed bugs are or have been present on the property. Prohibit landlords from making tenants liable for the cost of bed bug treatment (provided the tenant is not refusing to allow treatment).
Class Actions – Prohibit landlords from making tenants waive their right to being part of a class action lawsuit in a lease contract or addendum.
Common areas – When properties have community rooms or common areas, require landlords to allow the space to be used by tenants even when the office is closed, including for the purpose of holding independent tenant meetings (without owner or management representatives present).
Discrimination – Repeal law that prohibits cities and counties from expanding Fair housing ordinances to protect tenants based on the source of income or rent payment (such as Section 8 voucher, assistance from the county or emergency rent help). Expand Fair Housing Act to protect tenants based on source of income.
Displacement – Establish a right of 1st purchase. Require at least 120 days notice and relocation expenses when any rental housing, mobile home park, or long-term stay motel closes, or when tenants are required to move due to renovations. Prohibit displacement of school-age children during the school year.
Emergency Phone Number – Provide a remedy for tenants when the landlord fails to provide a working emergency phone number under Section 92.020 of the Texas Property Code.
Eviction – Expunge records of dismissed cases. Allow judges to seal eviction records when it is in the interest of justice. Allow counter claims in eviction cases. Establish “just cause” eviction law. Also see Opportunity to Cure.
Fees and Miscellaneous Charges – Extra charges need to be regulated – Tenants are being charged for monthly pest control, trash, mandatory valet trash pick-up, mandatory fee for packages left at management offices (even when they don’t have packages delivered), parking stickers, alarm systems, waiting lists, month-to-month fees, mandatory cable t.v. fees, references for next landlord, and administrative fees for utility billing. Define rent as the total monthly costs to retain housing, with the exception of costs that fluctuate, like utilities. Prohibit transfer fees and new deposits when tenants are moving due to substandard conditions.
Fines – Prohibit fines for lease violations unless they are included in the lease, do not exceed $25.
Foreclosure – The federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act was renewed in 2018, after expiring in 2014. It requires foreclosing owners to honor most lease contracts, unless they intend to use it as a primary residence, in which case they must give the tenants a 90-day notice. Language in Section 24.005 (b) of the Property Code contradicts that and should be replaced to be consistent with federal law.
Grounds for ending lease – Allow tenants who have been victimized by crime at their apartment, or have been laid off of their job due to employer’s bankruptcy or cut-backs to terminate their lease without penalty.
Late Fees and Other Charges – Prohibit landlords from including provisions in lease contracts that allow late fees and other charges to be deducted from rent payments, thus allowing late fees to continue to accumulate days after rent has been paid.
New Owner – Include a provision in the Property Code that a new owner is required to honor an existing lease. This is already in case law. The TAA lease acknowledges lease is binding on subsequent owners, but not all leases do.
Online Rent Payment – Require landlords to provide a non-online option without additional fees when online payments are an option. Limit the online “convenience fees.”
Opportunity to Cure – Require landlords to provide a warning and an opportunity to comply with the lease prior to filing for eviction, similar to the warning tenants must give before they have grounds to sue a landlord.
Parking/Towing – Prohibit towing for improper resident parking sticker unless tenant has been given an actual written notice. Prohibit fees for parking unless the space is covered or in a garage and open parking is available. Prohibit online apps to register tenant or guest vehicles.
Privacy – Require 24 to 48 hours advance notice before entry by landlord. Give tenants the right to reschedule inconvenient visits.
Repairs – Establish the right to withhold rent or pay into an escrow account when the landlord fails to make needed repairs. Require landlords to remedy conditions without advanced notice from the tenant for items the tenant has no advance warning of (like bed bugs and broken pipes). Remove requirement for housing inspection in order to repair and deduct. Require lease extensions at current rent and with no fees when a tenant must transfer due to substandard conditions. Prohibit landlords for refusing to give honest references and reporting tenants to screening services or credit bureaus when tenants lawfully terminate early due to substandard conditions.
Rent Increases – Add a provision in the Property Code requiring advanced notice of a rent increase. Require at least 90 days’ written notice if rent goes up by more than 5%.
Retaliation – Expand protection from retaliation by removing 6 month limit.
Right to Organize – Establish explicit right to organize including right to door knock, right to leaflet, right to hold independent tenant meetings with neighbors on the property outside the presence of ownership and management.
Security Deposits and/or Charges after Move-out – Require landlords to provide notice to the tenant of the tenant screening service, credit bureau and/or collection agency where charges will be reported. Establish time period where tenant can challenge excess charges prior to being reported to a screening service, credit bureau, or collection agency. Require landlords to provide receipts for damages they are claiming. Require security deposits to be kept in an escrow account (keeping it separate from their own funds).
Security Devices – Require changing of the locks before move-in, not within 7 days of new tenancy.
Utilities – Require landlords to obtain permission from the tenant and reimburse them within 5 days for the cost of utilities used to complete repairs or renovations. Hold landlords liable for unreasonably high utility costs due to poor insulation, and outdated or malfunctioning equipment. Prohibit cut-offs due to landlord’s failure to pay — Make utility companies sue. Allow tenants to sue for illegal water billing, rather than just file an administrative complaint with the Public Utility Commission.
Waiver of landlord’s duties – Remove the provision from Section 92.006 of the Texas Property Code allowing landlords to charge tenants for damage to doors, windows and screens even when the tenant has not damaged those items.
Affordable Housing Recommendations for local government
These recommendations were made to the City of Dallas in 2018 during the development of their Comprehensive Housing Policy
- Expand the Fair Housing ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on source of income, including Section 8 “Housing Choice” voucher holders.
- Put money into affordable housing for those with the greatest need (30% or below of the area median income) – bond program, general revenue, housing trust fund, Tax Increment Financing Districts – 25% set-aside (inclusionary zoning). 30% of 80% of the Area Median Income is a “pretend” affordable housing set-aside because the rents are at or above market rent in virtually every neighborhood.
- Create a tax credit to landlords who agree to provide units at rates affordable to extremely low income people. See below.
- Use zoning to preserve existing housing, obtain new affordable units and protect any tenants who will be displaced –in a binding manner
- Include tenants in notification of zoning hearings when their rental housing is affected.
- Require affordability for the life of the buildings (at least 50 years) when public money is used for development, acquisition or rehab.
- Require landlords who rehab units with city assistance to offer long-term leases at current rent levels to existing tenants.
- Establish a public review and approval process for demolition permits. Require replacement units or payment into a housing fund if affordable housing is demolished.
- Relocation assistance must be provided when properties redevelop — 6 months’ notice, no displacement of school-age children during the school year, and relocation assistance. (See recommendations for city of Austin https://law.utexas.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2015/07/2012-08-ECDC-TENANT_DISPLACEMENT_IN_AUSTIN.pdf)
- Establish a “first right of purchase” for tenants when owners want to sell or close a property. See Washington DC’s “Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.” https://ota.dc.gov/page/tenant-opportunity-purchase-act-topa
- Provide property tax relief to low income homeowners in gentrifying neighborhoods – Create Homestead Preservation Districts or some other vehicle to stop homeowner displacement.
Most people in Dallas are tenants, and almost half pay more than 30% of their income for rent. We have lost thousands of affordable housing units in the last 20 years as owners of federally-subsidized properties paid off their low-interest HUD-insured loans, opted out of Section 8 subsidy contracts, or both. Unsubsidized housing has also been lost as neighborhoods have gentrified. There has never been enough affordable housing, but it’s only getting worse.
Developers using Tax Increment Financing are required to set-aside 20% of the units for “affordable” housing. Affordable is defined as rents set for people making 80% of the Area Median Income. This is market rate and above market rate housing in almost every Dallas neighborhood.
What if the City of Dallas forgave the property taxes for landlords who agreed to provide truly affordable housing?
Fourteen properties in various parts of Dallas were chosen. Information on the rents they charge, the taxes they pay to the city, and how many affordable units could be produced with a tax credit if the landlords charged rents at 30% of the area median income for people with extremely low incomes (roughly 30% of AMI) were calculated. The affordable rent was determined by looking at 30% of the income of a two person household for a one bedroom apartment, 30% of the income of a three person household to come up for a two bedroom, and 30% of the income of a five person household for a three bedroom. This comes to $440 for a one bedroom, $510 for a two bedroom, and $720 for a three bedroom.
TTU looked at 14 properties that could produce 260 units of affordable housing at a cost of $1,912,892. Perhaps a program could be developed with a goal of producing 7,800 units at a cost of $57,386,760.
While the city would forego property tax revenue, the money that tenants are able to save in rent will be spent in the local economy on other life necessities — food, clothes, transportation, medicine.
|% of Dallas Area Median Income|
|1 Person||2 Persons||3 Persons||4 Persons||5 Persons|
|efficiency||1 bedroom||2 bedroom||2 bedroom||3 bedroom|
|rents at 30%AMI*||$385|| |
|$615||$720||rent levels recommended by TTU|
|rents at 50% AMI||$642|| |
|rents at 80% AMI||$1,028|| |
|$1,585||rent levels in TIF set-asides|
|Range of FMRs**||$510-$1100||$620-$1320||$760-$1400||$760-$1400||$1020 – $2170|
*formula for “extremely low income”
**FMR = Fair Market Rent