Several new real estate-related laws passed in 2019 by the 86th Texas Legislature took effect on Jan. 1, 2020. These include the following REALTOR®-supported bills that benefit Texas real estate consumers.

Expanded Access to Home Equity

As of January 1, property owners may now use agricultural land as collateral for a home equity loan (House Bill 1254, authored by Rep. Jim Murphy and sponsored by Sen. Kelly Hancock).

In 2017, voters approved a REALTOR®-supported constitutional amendment to modernize the home equity lending process for property owners. This new law further updates those provisions to allow more homeowners the ability to access the hard-earned equity in their homes while maintaining the strong consumer protections in the Texas Constitution.

More Transparency in Property Taxes

Several pieces of the monumental property tax reform legislation from 2019 (Senate Bill 2, authored by Sen. Paul Bettencourt and sponsored by Rep. Dustin Burrows) took effect January 1 to be in place for the 2020 tax year:

  • Changes the rollback rate from 8% for local taxing entities and gives voters more of a say in the tax rates that determine property tax bills
    • Most cities and counties will be subject to a 3.5% rollback rate
    • Most cities and counties will have automatic elections if they exceed the rollback rate
  • Renames the “effective rate” to the “no-new-revenue tax rate” and renames the “rollback rate” to the “voter-approval tax rate,” clarifying what these important tax rates mean for taxpayers
  • Requires central appraisal districts to create online databases to provide more information to taxpayers. (CADs in counties with less than 200,000 population have until the 2021 tax year to comply.) The databases will …
    • Show property owners how proposed tax rate changes would affect their bills
    • Make it easy for taxpayers to submit comments via an online form
    • Provide information about when and where a property owner’s local taxing entities

Property Tax Exemption

A new law provides a temporary property tax exemption for property owners in areas that have been declared disasters by the governor. This will help property owners struggling in the wake of disaster and provide these taxpayers more immediate relief.

The new law is the result of the passage of State of Texas Proposition 3, which voters approved in November 2019. This constitutional amendment was on the ballot after the 86th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 492 and House Joint Resolution 34 (authored by Rep. Hugh Shine and sponsored by Sens. Larry Taylor and Paul Bettencourt, respectively).

Flood Protection Funding

In November 2019 election, voters also passed a constitutional amendment known as State of Texas Proposition 8. This one was on the ballot after the passage of Senate Bill 7, authored by Sen. Brandon Creighton and sponsored by Rep. Dade Phelan.

The resulting new law effective January 1 created a Flood Infrastructure Fund to develop flood mitigation infrastructure, which will help communities better withstand future flood events and create a more resilient Texas in preparation for future flooding.

More New Laws in 2020

Visit the website of the Legislative Reference Library of Texas to see lists of all the bills from the 86th legislative session and provisions from other bills that became effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Contact Jaime Lee, director of advocacy communications, for more information about any of these legislative changes.