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Texas landlords will have to disclose flood risk to renters. That’s one of 23 new laws going into effect Jan. 1

Addicks Reservoir
David J. Phillip/AP
/
AP
FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2017, file photo, water from Addicks Reservoir flows into neighborhoods from floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. Harris County commissioners have voted to ask the federal government for a $17 million grant to purchase 104 homes at the highest risk of flooding. The decision came even as more than 1,000 residents have called the Flood Control District in recent days to request buyouts of their Hurricane Harvey flood-damaged homes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
In this Aug. 29, 2017 photo, water from Addicks Reservoir flows into neighborhoods from floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. Harris County commissioners have voted to ask the federal government for a $17 million grant to purchase 104 homes at the highest risk of flooding. The decision came even as more than 1,000 residents have called the Flood Control District in recent days to request buyouts of their Hurricane Harvey flood-damaged homes.

Twenty-three new Texas laws go into effect on Jan. 1.

None are as high-profile as some of the big-ticket items that passed during the state's four legislative sessions this year – like the state's strict abortion and voting laws– but they'll nonetheless impact Texans in some fashion.

Below is a list of every new law on the books in the new year.

Flood disclosure for renters

In many states across the country, including Texas, property owners don't have to disclose flood risk to potential tenants. They don't have to tell potential renters if a property flooded in the past, or if it’s in a flood-prone area.

A new Texas law hopes to address that.

Starting in the new year, landlords in Texas will be required by law to alert tenants if the property they’re renting is in a 100-year floodplain.

The law requires landlords to alert tenants to any flood damage that occurred in the five-year time period prior to leasing. Previously, only home sellers, not landlords, were required by law to disclose flood information.

Landlords will also have to give leasers a notice that says most renters insurance policies don’t cover flood damage, so renters should also purchase a flood insurance policy.

The law, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June, was written by Houston Democratic state Rep. Armando Walle, and passed the House 94-52 on May 24 and the Senate 31-0 on May 19.

But the new law is not without its critics – housing advocates say expecting renters to bear the burden of paying for flood insurance instead of landlords isn’t equitable.

“Landlords need to take the lead and have the responsibility be on them to ensure that their renters are fully served and that the responsibility is not shifted,” said Chrishelle Palay, executive director of the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity. “That’s what we see time and time again throughout the state.”

Long-term care transparency

Another law taking effect on Jan. 1 —House Bill 3961— requires nursing and assisted living facilities to post information on their websites about theOffice of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, an independent organization within the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that advocates for the rights of long-term care facility residents.

While the office has been around for decades, many people are still unaware of the services it provides. Ombudsmen touch on issues like health and safety, and residents' rights. They hear complaints about any number of problems, including residents' activities and complaints about visitor access.

"We're here to really be the voice and the advocate for folks that are living in nursing and assisted living facilities," said Alexa Schoeman, the deputy state ombudsman.

AARP Texasis one of the groups that supported the bill. Associate state director for advocacy and outreach, Amanda Fredriksen, said it was essential to ensure residents and their families have access to the information. She added it's even more important after facilities were closed to visitors during the pandemic.

"Previously the information needed to be posted in the facility, but if family can't get into the facility, then they don't have access to the information," Fredriksen said.

During fiscal year 2021, staff and volunteers with the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman investigated 5,829 complaints at nursing and assisted living facilities.

Restaurant trademark protections

Texas restaurants will have more control working with third-party delivery companies under one of the new laws taking effect New Year’s Day.

Kelsey Erickson Streufert with the Texas Restaurant Association says SB-911 includes new rules to prevent trademark infringement: Restaurants have seen cases in which delivery apps put restaurants on their platforms without permission. Many did not have knowledge that they were listed on those apps, Streufert said.

The new law also makes it easier to qualify as a restaurant in Texas without requiring a location’s alcohol sales total 60 percent or less of total revenue.

"(The law is) trying to create some fairness, better communication, and protecting each party’s right to be in that space if they want to be,” Streufert said.

Other laws going into effect Jan. 1:

  • HB 115provides property tax breaks for charitable organizations that provide housing and related services to people experiencing homelessness.
  • HB 1197extends the period of time religious organizations are exempted from paying property taxes on contiguously owned land that's intended for expanding or building a place of worship from six to 10 years.
  • HB 1445amends the tax code to exclude medical or dental billing services from being considered "insurance services" if the service provided precedes the filing of an original insurance claim.
  • HB 1689changes regulations on how insurance providers are allowed to transfer liabilities to third-party entities.
  • HB 2237amends the Texas insurance code regarding how mechanics, contractors and others are allowed to pursue liens against customers for unpaid work.
  • HB 2535amends the Texas tax code to exclude chicken coops and rabbit pens, used for non-commercial food production, in appraising the taxable value of a residential property.
  • HB 2730amends rules for acquiring private property through eminent domain. That includes requiring landowners be informed of their right to file a complaint with the Texas Real Estate Commission regarding alleged misconduct.
  • HB 3131amends the certification filing requirements for forming a business entity in Texas. Specifically, the bill requires information on the certificate to include the "initial mailing address of the filing entity."
  • HB 3777changes how tax breaks are given for costs associated with rehabilitating historic structures.
  • HB 3788allows for the education and training required of appraisal review board members to be conducted remotely.
  • HB 3971changes how residential property values in designated historic districts are appraised for tax purposes.
  • HB 4638allows for the creation of a "Leander municipal management district" in Williamson County that's permitted to issue bonds, as well as impose assessments, fees and taxes.
  • SB 23requires counties with more than 1 million residents get voter approval before reducing or reallocating funding for county law enforcement agencies by a certain amount.
  • SB 41revises rules for collecting and allocating state civil court fees, including an increase in some administrative charges.
  • SB 43changes rules for property owners to issue residential mortgage loans, also known as wraparound mortgages.
  • SB 794modifies language in the tax code related to homestead property tax breaks for disabled veterans.
  • SB 855establishes regulations and protections for the online dissemination of commercial recordings and audio visual works.
  • SB 1280amends liability standards for people who violate government code in selling securities, such as stocks.
  • SB 1449allows for tax exemptions on personal property, worth less than $2,500, that's used to produce income. The previous cap only allowed the tax breaks for property valued under $500.
  • SB 1524establishes a tax refund pilot program for employers offering qualified apprenticeship programs.

Copyright 2022 Houston Public Media News 88.7. To see more, visit Houston Public Media News 88.7.

Caroline Love
Becky Fogel, The Texas Newsroom
Joseph Leahy, The Texas Newsroom