Legal Assistance For Texas Property Owners Associations
Property owners associations (POA) in Texas must follow rules and regulations outlined in the Texas Property Code. When you have legal questions, contact Avera Law Firm, P.L.L.C., in Austin for knowledgeable answers.
Avera Law serves clients throughout Central Texas with all matters of real estate law.
Skilled Guidance With Texas Property Owners Association Laws
In the past few years, a number of legislative changes have altered the rules POAs must follow. Following are some highlights of changes that may be important you or your association:
- Rain barrels: Homeowner associations are no longer allowed to strictly prohibit the use of rain barrels, solar panels or storm shingles. In some cases, if the association does not have a specific rule regarding the use of a rain barrels, for example, then the owner has an absolute right to install and use the item as they please.
- Open board of director meetings: Prior to holding a board meeting, homeowner associations must provide notice of the meeting to all owners as outlined in Section 209.0051 of the Texas Property Code. They are now required to hold open board meetings. However, due to the nature of certain topics discussed during a board meeting, the board may adjourn into an executive session to discuss and vote on a particular issue. Once a decision has been made, the board must return to the open meeting and summarize the decision made by the board so that the decision is recorded in the meeting minutes.
- Annual meetings: Associations are also required to hold an annual meeting. If the board does hold an annual meeting, then the owners may request a meeting. If an annual meeting is not scheduled at the request of the owners, then the owners can form a committee to elect a new board for the association.
- Elections: An owner’s right to vote cannot be suspended for any reason, and all elections must be in writing and signed by an owner. Some electronic balloting procedures can be used but they must meet specific requirements in the Texas Property Code. No one should have access to the ballots except the person counting the ballots, and that cannot disclose how a member voted and they cannot be related to any person which is the subject of an election or vote.
- Election recounts: If a recount is requested it must be in writing and meet certain requirements which can be found in the Property Code. In the event the association receives a recount request, contact our office immediately so that we can verify that the proper procedure was used to request the recount and then provide the necessary assistance for the association comply with the request.
- Owners’ rights: In addition to the right to vote in an election, the legislature also gave owners the right to serve on the association’s board of directors regardless of delinquency status. However, if the board receives notice that a board member has been convicted of certain crimes then the member may be removed from the board and prohibited from serving in the future.
- Dedicatory documents: In order for a dedicatory instrument to be effective it must be filed. We advise you to review all of the association documents to determine if they have been filed in the real property records and if not to immediately do so. If you require assistance with this, please let us know. If the association has an internet website, then all of the dedicatory instruments must be posted on the website.
- Association records: The records of the association must be open to the members and available upon written request. The association is allowed to charge a fee for complying with a records request. In addition to making the records available upon request, the association must adopt a records retention policy that meets minimum requirements. If you are not certain of the requirements, contact our office for assistance.
- Amending a declaration: An association is allowed to amend their declaration if 67% percent of the owners approve the amendment if their current declaration requires a higher approval percentage. The law does not require associations that allow for a lower owner approval percentage to use the higher percentage.
- Collections and enforcements: The property code requires associations to include references to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act in all notice regarding collections and enforcement actions. If you are unfamiliar with this act, it provides active duty members of the military and their families protection from certain civil obligations.
- Delinquent accounts: Prior to turning a delinquent account over to a third-party to assist in the debt collection process, the association must first provide the owner with a written itemization of the amount owed. The association must also advise the owner that they may have the right to a payment plan and that they have 30 days to pay the debt or request a payment plan before the association turns the account over to the third-party. If the association fails to do any of the above before turning the account over to the third-party, then the association is prohibited from recovering any fees charged by the third-party from the owner.
- Payment plans: An association must also adopt a payment plan policy which allows owners the opportunity to become current on their past due amounts without incurring any additional penalties. Additional penalties do not include any reasonable fees necessary to administer the payment plan. The minimum payment plan term is 3 months and the maximum term required by law is 18 months. Also, an association is not required to offer a payment plan to any owner that has violated a previous payment plan within the last two years.
- Foreclosures: Associations are prohibited from foreclosing if the amount owed consists solely of certain fees. If you need to foreclose a lien, contact us to represent the association in order to make certain it meets all the requirements of the Property Code.
- Liens: Associations must use a licensed attorney to draft any lien the association wishes to file. However, prior to filing a lien, we recommend that the association first provides the necessary notice of delinquency to the owner described above.
- Transfer fees: The legislature placed certain restriction on transfer fees charged by an association during home sales or resales. Private transfer fees can only be charged in certain circumstances. A transfer fee charged by an association when ownership in property is transferred in the associations records is not considered a private transfer fee according to the new statute as long no portion of the fee is passed onto a third-party.
- Resale certificates: As you may know, when a property is sold, the association is required to provide a resale certificate. When a resale certificate is requested, it must have been prepared no earlier than 60 days prior to the request. An association is allowed to request payment in advance, but they may not process the payment until the certificate is delivered.
Contact Avera Law Firm, P.L.L.C., by calling 512-298-6672 for legal assistance with any of these — or other — real estate matters. You may also complete a brief online form to schedule a meeting. Your initial consultation with our lawyer is free.