New Year, New Laws
Posted by Government Affairs
on Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Houston ordinance requires registration of properties by January 31
Houston’s new property inspection ordinance requires all Houston properties with three or more units to register with the City of Houston by January 31. The good news? It’s free of charge, it’s all online at http://www.houstonmultifamily.org/ and it’s not that difficult once you have the information that’s required. Here’s what you need before you start:
Certificates of Occupancy (CO’s) – You need ALL the certificates of occupancy for each property. Every building has one, and it’s supposed to be posted in the management office. If your property has eight buildings, you’ll need eight CO’s so you can enter the numbers when you register. If your property has current CO’s (life safety inspections were completed back in the 1990’s, etc.), but they’re missing, you can purchase replacements by calling the Occupancy Inspection Section at (713) 535-7730.
HCAD Account Number – Each property has an account number with the Harris County Appraisal District. Get it by going to www.hcad.org and searching for your property by street address in the “Real Property Search” section under “Record Search.”
Unit Mix – You need to know the number of units of each bedroom type in each building.
Fire Hydrants – You need to know the total number of fire hydrants on your property.
Swimming Pools – Know the number of pools, if any
Occupancy – Know the current occupancy percentage of the property.
Date opened – Know the date, or at least the year, the property opened for business.
Pay phones – Know the number of pay telephones, if any, on the property.
Contact information for owner, management company and manager: You do NOT need to enter home addresses or telephone numbers.
Make sure you’ve entered this information online by the end of January, and make sure you print and post a copy of your registration in the property’s leasing office.
If you have problems with registration, contact the City of Houston at713-535-7900.
If you have any trouble with registration, please let the City know and copy us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Houston Property Directory Requirement – This isn’t required until January 1, 2011, but Houston properties will be required to have a property directory at every vehicular entrance (you should already have one at your “principle entrance”). Put it within 8 feet of your driveway, where ambulance drivers and pizza delivery guys can see it.
Ban on Attention Getting Devices in Houston – The Houston City Council passed an ordinance in 2008 which bans several types of “attention getting devices,” including: balloons, streamers, giant inflatables. Check here for exceptions and more information about this law.
Utility Disconnections – Under a law passed earlier this year, starting January 1, 2010, utilities can only be disconnected for “bona fide repairs, construction or emergencies.” This has long been the case for water, but will now apply to electricity as well, so disconnecting electricity for non-payment in a mastermetered property will no longer be allowed.
Visual Smoke Detectors – Under another new law, an apartment owner must provide a visual smoke detector at the owner’s expense for a hearing-impaired resident.
Lease Termination for Sexual Assault – This law creates lease termination rights for certain crime victims if an assault occurred within the previous 6 months at the property and specific documentation is provided.
Lease Guarantors – The new TAA lease will reflect this, but another new state law prevents lease guarantors from being obligated beyond the initial lease term under certain circumstances.
Make it your New Year’s Resolution to incorporate these new requirements into your business plan for 2010. As always, if you are a member of the Houston Apartment Association and have any government related questions, please contact HAA at email@example.com.