From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
April 9, 1999
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senate Passes Bipartisan Omnibus Homeowners Association Reform Plan
Senators Ellis, Carona praise bill balancing homeowners rights, association duties

(Austin)// The Texas Senate today passed SB 699, omnibus homeowners association reform, by Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) and Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), legislation which will protect homeowner's rights while maintaining a strong role for homeowners associations.

"This legislation represents a major victory for Texas homeowners," said Senator Ellis. "It strikes the proper balance between the need to protect homeowners rights from irresponsible abuses, and the need to maintain homeowners associations' ability to help manage growth in cities across Texas."

To protect Texas homeowners, SB 699 creates rights, obligations and procedures for homeowners and homeowners associations. It is a compromise plan that incorporates reforms sponsored by Senator Ellis in SB 954. Provisions offered by Senator Ellis will:

"In cases where a family can lose their home, this legislation will ensure due diligence is observed," said Ellis. "It will improve disclosure and proper notice of any action on the part of the homeowners association, yet maintain a strong role for homeowners associations."

Texas is one of the three states where homeowners associations are most common. Homeowners associations, for a fee, provide traditional municipal functions such as police protection and trash collection. Detailed rules on property maintenance, sometimes incomprehensible to affected homeowners, are enforced through fines and liens on homes. Some homeowners associations, however, have gone too far, overzealously enforcing subjective restrictions on swingsets and clotheslines. Some even ban children or pets. Those violating association provisions can have their home foreclosed upon.

"Owning your own home is the core of the American Dream," said Senator Ellis. "Across Texas, homeowners associations serve an important role in realizing that dream. It is clear, however, that some homeowners associations abuse their power. SB 699 will protect homeowners -- especially those in unzoned cities like Houston -- from the most serious abuses."

Foreclosures by homeowners associations is a growing concern across Texas. Since 1839, the Texas constitution has prohibited foreclosure of homes to repay debts, except in very limited circumstances. But a 1987 Texas Supreme Court decision, Inwood North Homeowners Association, Inc v. Harris, gave homeowners associations the power to foreclose upon homes. In 1997, there were over 1,050 homeowner association foreclosure suits in Harris County alone. In the first four months of 1998, there were 390 cases filed in Harris County, more than all the cases filed statewide through 1988.

Senator Ellis praised the spirit of cooperation fostered by Senator Carona.

"Today is an example how the process should work," concluded Ellis. "Instead of shouting at each other, all sides worked together to find common ground and solve a major problem in Texas. I believe this legislation is a major step forward for homeowners rights in Texas."