Lone Star HOA Legislation Offends “Texas Values”

May 17, 2013
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Several bills being considered by the Texas Legislature this session are posing the question of whether the rights of one individual homeowner should trump the rights of all owners in an HOA. The bills would affect the powers and duties of Texas homeowners associations—some having to do with merely cosmetic issues, such as prohibiting associations from banning flags in front yards, and some substantial, such as giving HOAs more powers of accelerated foreclosure.

The issue of reining in the powers of HOAs by law is highly charged, some lawmakers have noted, because it affects deeply held “southern values” like property, community, family, home, privacy, independence, freedom, and local control. Lawmakers have also said that while they feel HOAs need to be reined in, some HOAs have lobbying power at the Capitol that’s too strong for legislators to make much headway.

Potential HOA legislation that’s aligned with lawmakers’ other concerns may be more likely to succeed. For example, a bill that would prevent HOAs from banning xeriscaping—landscaping that involves native plants that don’t require as much watering—is getting some attention because it supports the legislature’s efforts to pass water conservation legislation.

It remains to be seen whether the Republican-dominated legislature, still new at reducing the powers of HOAs, will do much on the issue this session, however, after passing some reforms in 2011 and focusing its attention this year on more pressing issues such as water and transportation. HOA advocacy groups have taken the position that because HOAs are comprised of the very members who are affected by their rules, their power in making and enforcing those rules shouldn’t be subject to local government. But supporters of the legislation cite horror stories, such as the foreclosure of a Texas home because the owner was late in paying only slightly more than $800 in HOA charges, as the impetus for change.

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