Chairman Solomons Confident SB 142 Will Come to the Texas House Floor
By JESSICA MEYERS, Staff Writer, Dallas Morning News
Published 19 May 2011 11:10 PM
Bills to diminish HOA’s power face dwindling hopes in Texas Legislature
AUSTIN — As time runs out in the legislative session, lawmakers’ promises to dampen the influence of homeowners associations may be fading. The only HOA bill that has passed both chambers did so Thursday, leaving many dead in committees and several awaiting a spot on the agenda in the final 10 days of the session.
Triggered by the experience of a Frisco military family, the bill approved Thursday would safeguard service members against losing their homes to HOAs. Federal law protects military personnel from foreclosure without a court order. But associations say they aren’t always aware of a homeowner’s service status.
That was the case with Michael Clauer, who learned that an HOA had foreclosed on his home while he was stationed in Iraq. The bill would require HOAs to ask in their debt notices whether the homeowner or spouse is in the armed forces. “I’ve seen what happens to those big HOA bills,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, as she applauded her bill being on its way to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. “I kept this separate because I didn’t want it to get messed up.”
Lawmakers filed about 40 HOA bills this session, crying for change after mounting stories of association abuses and years of stalled attempts.
Their greatest hopes relay the House calendar. A comprehensive HOA bill by Sen. Royce West , D-Dallas, passed the Senate in early April. But it faces both a time crunch and a last-minute backlash from homeowner association representatives, who disliked the revisions made by Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, last week.
The bill would broaden association transparency, ensure homeowners pay late dues before attorney fees, restrict HOAs from banning solar panels and require acourt order for foreclosure.
HOA supporters say Solomons’ changes in notifications and paperwork requirements will lead to skyrocketing costs for members and threaten property values. “We had gotten to the point where it was good reform,” said Judi Phares, chairwoman-elect of the Texas Community Association Advocates. “This is overkill.”
Homeowner advocates now consider it the most substantial bill yet. And Solomons says it offers more balance for people like Clauer, who lived in his district when his home was foreclosed.
Both West and Solomons say they’re confident they can reach a compromise on their bills, if the House can act in time. “Obviously the clock is ticking and the House is focused on more weighty issues,” West said. “But, yes, we can still get this through.” Solomons says he has the necessary support in the House. All he needs is time.
“It’s got a better chance to pass than the budget,” he said.