AUSTIN – Earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 873 into law, modifying the Texas water code to benefit apartment owners, operators and their residents, according to RealPage, a provider of software and data analytics to the real estate industry.

Regulatory professionals at RealPage worked closely with the Texas Apartment Association to draft the legislation, provide testimony at legislative hearings, and educate legislators on the benefits of the bill, a June 8 press release states.

RealPage also engaged its own outside legislative and regulatory counsel at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP to complement the efforts of the professionals at the TAA.

The law brings the Texas water code into line with other Texas statutes that underwent tort reform over the last two decades. In recent years, Texas apartment owners faced a deluge of lawsuits from lawyers who were twisting well-established definitions and practices in utility billing in an attempt to obtain the treasure-trove of exorbitant penalties contained in the former code, the press release states.

The new law eliminates the unjust incentives fueling rampant lawsuit abuse and moves the regulation of water billing under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Texas Public Utility Commission, which has the authority and experience to issue judicious penalties reasonably related to the level and nature of a violation, RealPage asserts.

Residents will also benefit from a new streamlined online and telephonic complaint and hearing system as well as clarity in enforcement and interpretation of the law, the press release states.

“RealPage sincerely thanks everyone who worked on this legislation and we are grateful to the Senate and House bill authors, Senator Brandon Creighton and Representative Jim Murphy, for their leadership and commitment to preventing abuse of our legal system,” said David Monk, chief legal officer at RealPage. “We are pleased with the passage of this legislation and believe that it will greatly aid apartment owners and managers – and their residents.”

The legislation passed both the House and Senate with over a two-thirds supermajority, and became effective immediately on June 1, 2017, the date signed by Abbott.

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