Proposed New Law Mandates Flooding Disclosure to Renters
HB531 passed the Texas House of Representatives today. 119 voted Yea, 27 Nay and 2 voted present. Before it can become law, it still needs to pass the Senate and then the Governor must sign it.
Background and Purpose
Some feel that renters in areas susceptible to flooding may be unaware of that risk. Although state law requires a person selling real property to disclose to prospective homeowners whether the property is located in a floodplain, there is no similar requirement with respect to renters. H.B. 531 seeks to ensure that tenants are equipped with the information necessary to make informed decisions.
It requires a landlord to provide tenant with a written notice indicating whether the landlord is aware that the leased dwelling is located in a 100-year floodplain. It would also require the landlord to disclose whether the dwelling sustained flood damage in the preceding five-year period.
Some companies buy up homes on the cheap after floods and then rent them out to unsuspecting families. In North Kingwood Forest, I interviewed a family last year that fell into that category. The home flooded after May 7th in 2019, was fixed up, and quickly rented. Then the unsuspecting family promptly flooded during Imelda. Only then did the family learn of the properties history.
H.B. 531 amends the Property Code to require the landlord of a residential dwelling to provide to a tenant a written notice stating whether the landlord is or is not aware that the dwelling is located in a 100-year floodplain. The bill sets out additional language related to informing the tenant of the dwelling’s potential susceptibility to flooding and the advisability of flood insurance.
However, if the landlord of a dwelling in a 100-year floodplain has raised the building above the 100-year floodplain in accordance with federal regulations, the landlord is then not required to disclose that the dwelling is located in the floodplain. The bill requires a landlord who knows that flooding has damaged any portion of a dwelling at least once during the five-year period immediately preceding the effective date of a lease to provide written notice to the tenant.
An amendment to H.B. 531 requires each applicable flood notice to be included in a separate written document given to a tenant before execution of a lease.
Lease Termination Rights
The bill lets a tenant terminate a lease if a landlord violates notice requirements and the tenant suffers a substantial loss or damage to the tenant’s personal property as a result of flooding. The tenant to give a written notice of termination to the landlord not later than the 30th day after the date the loss or damage occurred. The bill makes termination effective when the tenant surrenders possession of the dwelling.
It also requires the landlord, not later than the 30th day after the effective date of the termination, to refund to the tenant all rent or other amounts paid in advance under the lease. HB 531’s provisions do not affect a tenant’s liability for delinquent, unpaid rent or other sums owed to the landlord before the date the tenant terminated the lease.
If approved by the Senate and Governor, the bill would become effective on January 1, 2022.
For the full text of the bill as it currently stands, click here.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/2/2021
1312 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 560 since Imelda