Title Tip: Real Estate Industry Gets Little Attention During 2021 Legislative Session

Real estate topics took a back seat to big issues like the pandemic and power grid failures in 2021 with the Texas Legislature. Of the 3,800 bills enacted into law, real estate still got a little attention. 

Some of the welcome changes coming next week are due to lobbying efforts from the Texas Association of Realtors and the Texas Land and Title Association. New real estate contracts reflecting these laws are now available and required to be used by Realtors starting September 1, 2021. 

Homeowner Associations

The law from Senate Bill 1588/House Bill 3367 requires more transparency from HOA management companies. It puts a cap on the costs for obtaining subdivision information, resale certificate updates, and HOA transfer fees. The limit for the fee to obtain subdivision information will be $375 and the fee for an updated resale certificate is topped at $75. 

The new law also states that the HOA’s publicly filed management certificate must disclose the amount of any transfer fees charged with the sale. That information will be made available in the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) database. This will allow agents to look up the transfer fees on a property prior to listing it for sale or submitting a purchase offer for their buyer. It offers protection to homeowners and buyers against unreasonable fees and surprises.  Additional consumer privacy protections for homeowners are included in this new law.

Effective September 1, 2021, the law will be phased in. TREC will establish a database to accept management certificates from HOAs and make it available to the public by December 1, 2021. HOAs must electronically file their management certificate with TREC no later than June 1, 2022.

Public Improvement Districts (PIDs)

House Bill 1543 is now a law that requires a property owner in a PID to disclose that the property is in a PID and certain details of the PID prior to executing a contract with a buyer. The PID notice must be acknowledged by the buyer and seller and will be recorded in county records at the time of the sale. 

A PID is a special district created by a city or county. It allows a special assessment tax against properties within the district for improvements or maintenance. The existence of a PID on a property can currently be found in the county appraisal district tax records. More details of a PID must now be filed with the county deed records starting September 1, 2021.

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Appraisers

House Bill 2533 specifies that unless a lender requires a full appraisal for a financial transaction, a licensed appraiser is not required to comply with Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) when performing an evaluation. If an appraiser performs an evaluation that is not in compliance with USPAP, then it must include a notice stating that the evaluation is not an appraisal performed in compliance with USPAP. This takes effect on June 14, 2021.

A new Statute of Limitations law from House Bill 1939 provides for a two-to-five-year limit for lawsuits filed based on an appraisal or appraisal review. This excludes lawsuits based on fraud or breach of contract and is effective September 1, 2021.

Quitclaim Deeds

Transferring title in Texas with a Quitclaim Deed should become easier after September 1, 2021. This law will allow a purchaser of a property with a Quitclaim Deed to be considered a bona fide purchaser if at least 4 years have passed since the deed was recorded. 

Title companies are wary of quitclaim deeds because, unlike a warranty deed, they only convey whatever interest the signer may or may not have in the property. The signer of a quitclaim deed may have limited or no ownership of the property. There is no warranty of full ownership being transferred. This new law may remove quitclaim deed concerns if at least 4 years have passed. It does not affect quitclaim deeds recorded prior to September 1, 2021. 

Mechanic’s Liens

A new law extends the description of lien rights. Subcontractor liens must now be filed within a particular time period and notice requirements are detailed. Limitations for filing suit to foreclose a lien and who must be licensed to file a lien are now updated.

Judgments on Homestead Properties

Using a homestead affidavit to remove a judgment on a property just got clarification. Previously, a homeowner seeking to remove a judgment in order to sell or refinance would sign a homestead affidavit, send it to the creditor, wait 30 days and see if the creditor disputes the homestead claim. The new law allows the owner to sign a homestead affidavit and record it with the county at any time. The creditor is still notified of the recording and has 30 days to dispute it, but the homeowner can get the affidavit and issue of homestead resolved ahead of a transaction. 

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Racial Restrictive Covenants

Some older subdivisions in Texas have original restrictive covenants regarding certain racial or ethnic groups. These have been invalid and unenforceable for decades but they still show up in the county records as legal documents. This new law allows a property owner to request that the County Clerk actually remove the language of the racial restrictions from the public record. The county would remove the document and attach another document stating that a restriction that is void has been removed. While a good concept, this law just changes the county paperwork. 

Freedom of Expression

House Bill 3343 prohibits insurers (like title insurance or homeowners’ insurance) from discriminating on the basis of political affiliation or expression. 

And if the rules of real estate are driving you to drink, then you may have notice House Bill 1024. Restaurants may start including alcoholic beverages in delivery and to-go orders. It has no effect on real estate transactions but cheers to that law anyway. 

The opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain advice for any particular issue.

Lydia Blair

Lydia Blair (formerly Lydia Player) was a successful Realtor for 10 years before jumping to the title side of the business in 2015. Prior to selling real estate, she bought, remodeled and sold homes (before house flipping was an expression). She’s been through the real estate closing process countless times as either a buyer, a seller, a Realtor, and an Escrow Officer. As an Escrow Officer for Allegiance Title at Preston Center, she likes solving problems and cutting through red tape. The most fun part of her job is handing people keys or a check.

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