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May 28, 2002     (512) 463-0300

Senate Subcommittee Searches For Solutions To Property Owner Association Problems

Just what powers does a property owners association (POA) have in Texas? Too many, according to many Houston area residents. Several years ago, a POA foreclosed on an elderly woman's property due to non-payment of dues and sold a $150 thousand dollar home for five thousand dollars at auction.

That and other abuses have caused the Texas Senate to create the Intergovernmental Relations Committee Subcommittee on Property Owners' Associations. Today in Austin, the subcommittee heard what changes need to be made.

The Harris County Attorney's office sent Cathy Sisk and Roberta Lloyd to testify. They suggested clarifying the property code so that all parties know what rights they have under the law. Lloyd also testified that under current law, the assistance that they can offer to residents is limited.

Homeowners Association attorneys followed, testifying that community standards must be held and that the associations must be able to uphold aesthetic standards and perform the rest of their duties. Attorney Michael Gainer said that the "few categories of wrongdoing" could be resolved. The other attorneys described the policies of many HOAs in regard to covenants, legal fees and aesthetic standards. Some HOAs have actually tried to ban all signs, including those for political campaigns. That's a prohibition that many witnesses considered unconstitutional.

Public testimony followed the invited witnesses, with many people from the Houston area recounting the problems they had with local HOAs.

Following the subcommittee, the full Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs heard testimony on issues regarding special governmental districts such as water supply districts, the power of county officials to regulate growth and the availability and delivery of emergency services.

Jason Cook, from the Health and Human Services Commission spoke as to how Texas funds emergency medical service under Medicaid. Following that, the committee heard about problems Texas Counties face since they generally do not have the authority to regulate building codes in their unincorporated areas.

The Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations is chaired by Senator Frank Madla. Members include Senators Jon Lindsay, David Cain, Craig Estes, Florence Shapiro, Todd Staples, Royce West and John Whitmire. Senator Lindsay chairs the Subcommittee on HOAs and serves on it with Senators West and Whitmire. The Committee recessed subject to call of the chair with its next meeting to be held at a time and place to be announced at a later date.

You can access the archived video webcast from the web page of Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

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