Houston News : Texas renters deserve to know if their home has flooded


I remember asking my then-prospective landlord if my now-Meyerland apartment flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

I was marveling at the redesigned kitchen during a walk-through of the unit in late 2019. A newly-renovated downstairs is a major plus for any renter.

It can also be a telltale sign of a recent flood, especially in the 77096 ZIP code.

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He assured me that my apartment didn’t flood during Harvey, or any other storm for that matter. The apartments are about a quarter-mile south of the bayou, he assured  me.

I believe him. My new neighbors corroborated his claims. But at the end of the day, it’s only his word.

Under Texas law, landlords are not required to tell their tenants if the place has flooded in the past. State Rep. Armando Walle tried changing the law in 2019, but a strong landlord lobby blocked the bill in a Senate committee hearing, he told Houston Public Media’s Jen Rice.

Walle, a Democrat representing north Houston and Harris County, filed a bill in the upcoming legislature that would force landlords to tell prospective tenants if the home they’re renting has flooded in the last five years. It would also require landlords to disclose whether or not a home is in the 100-year floodplain.

“It doesn’t stop anybody from renting the place,” Walle told Rice. “It’s just ‘Hey, here’s notification. Here’s a warning of where you’re wanting to rent a home.'”

The notices would be disclosed on the lease, according to text of the bill.

The 2019 bill passed the House but failed to make headway in the Senate. It’s unclear how it will fare this year.

Mike Baudat, left, gets some help moving a refrigerator as he evacuates his home in River Plantation in Conroe on May 13, 2015.

Jason Fochtman

I’m no stranger to the issue. While reporting for The Courier in May 2015 I encountered Mike Baudat, a man whose River Plantation home flooded during a deluge near Conroe.

He and his wife had just moved in a few days earlier. Their landlord assured them that the home had only flooded once during Tropical Storm Alison in 1998.

Neighbors painted another picture. They told the couple that the home flooded during nearly every major storm.

The house had become somewhat of a litmus test for nearby residents: If this particular home flooded, they knew the rest of their homes could be in danger.

A bout of strong showers on May 13, 2015, forced the nearby San Jacinto River to rise.

Residents brace for flooding in River Plantation. @SJRALakeConroe releasing equivalent of 3″ rain per hour #hounews pic.twitter.com/AKxh1uBUM8

— Jay R. Jordan (@JayRJordan) May 13, 2015

Within hours, there was standing water in the Baudat’s living room. He and his wife were forced to frantically pack and move all their belongings as the rain came down.

They lamented not knowing the home was prone to flooding.

“If it’s uninhabitable, we can’t live here anyway,” Heather Baudat told me then. “There’s no point in paying rent in an uninhabitable place.”

Stories like these are repeated year after year as storms pummel Houston, including in 2017 during Hurricane Harvey.

State Rep. Armando Walle, the Harris County Recovery Czar, speaks during a press conference Thursday, June 11, 2020, in Houston.

Jon Shapley, Staff photographer / Staff photographer

Several apartments in Walle’s district flooded during Harvey, according to Rice’s report. He calls the legislation a “common sense” way to protect renters.

He called out two of the state’s major landlord lobbies to work with legislators on the issue.

“Nobody’s saying that unit shouldn’t be offered to the consumer, but if you’re in a flood-prone area, I think it’s important to notify these folks,” Walle said. “Whether it’s the Houston Apartment Association or the Texas Apartment Association, I encourage them to be partners with us.”

Hopefully, tenants can get a win this time around.

Houston News

Source : chron.com