By Amber Gaudet Staff Write for KPVI
A bill introduced in the Texas House last week would prohibit homeowners associations from restricting what forms of payment landlords can accept, including Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher payments.
Filed by Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, the bill would amend Section 202 of the Texas Property Code to prohibit associations from enforcing provisions that limit, or have the effect of limiting, allowed forms of payment. The bill explicitly includes payment made in whole or part by a voucher or any other federal, state or local housing assistance or subsidies.
The bill would have big implications for associations such as Providence HOA in Denton County, which passed leasing rules restricting Section 8 renters last June.
The controversial rules originally set would fine landlords with Section 8 tenants $300 weekly until the renters were ousted, but after public backlash, the association announced tenants would be allowed to finish their leases.
Implementation of the Section 8 ban and other provisions of the leasing rules were halted altogether in August pending an investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development into whether the rules violate the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race and other factors.
More than 157 majority-Black households in Providence Village stood to be impacted by the rules, with at least one family saying they were forced into a motel in anticipation of the ban.
In the last legislative session, Turner was chair of the Texas House’s Business & Industry Committee, which traditionally handles landlord-tenant relations, HOAs and real estate. After following the developments out of Providence Village, Turner brought up the issue during an interim committee hearing last September relating to the implementation of Senate Bill 1588, which also governs homeowners associations. Turner gauged any possible opposition to a future bill with a representative for the Texas Legislative Action Committee, which represents homeowners associations, and none was anticipated by the representative.
“HOAs have a valuable role to play in a lot of neighborhoods — I live in an HOA, and I think my HOA does a good job — but an HOA should not have the ability to interfere in a property owner’s private lease agreement with a renter,” Turner said. “We have in Texas, unlike in other places, a shortage of housing, and affordable housing in particular. So if someone qualifies for a housing voucher through HUD, they have the right to use the voucher to live where they want to live, provided they can cover the expenses.”
Other HOAs also could stand to be impacted by the bill if it passes — Savannah has had a similar ban on the books for years. Proponents of the bans in both neighborhoods say an uptick in violent crime they associate with voucher recipients has underscored their support for the leasing rules.
Once the House speaker appoints committees around early February, the bill would move to a hearing and committee vote before it could be scheduled for a House floor debate. Though most bills never make it into law, Turner hopes his colleagues will agree the issue is a straightforward one.
“This is, I think, a very simple bill; it’s very clear-cut,” Turner said. “It’s a private property rights issue — you can’t have a third party dictating to a property owner what sort of payment they can accept or not accept to lawfully rent their property. If we saw this practice continue, it sets a dangerous precedent, and I think it’s contrary to federal law — I think it would be very problematic for our state.
“I hope that my colleagues will see this bill is simply a matter of common sense and one that safeguards the rights of not only tenants, but also property owners.”
If passed, the law would take effect Sept. 1.
No updates have been released by HUD or Providence HOA as to whether the investigation remains ongoing. A July lawsuit brought by High Opportunity Neighborhood Realty, which leases 21 properties in the neighborhood including to voucher recipients, is also ongoing. Mediation is set to be complete by Feb. 20, and a final pretrial conference is set for Aug. 31.