Reforms to the property appraisal process will be implemented under legislation that will go into effect today as a series of laws passed by the Texas Legislature take hold.

In addition, college students living on campus in Texas will be required to have bacterial meningitis vaccinations beginning next year.

And as of today, landlords of dwelling units in Texas, such as apartment complexes, will be required to purchase and install visual smoke alarms upon request for their deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind tenants. These visual smoke alarms must be installed in the bedroom where a deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind person will be sleeping.

SB 1715 applies to any “home, mobile home, duplex unit, apartment unit, condominium unit, or any dwelling unit in a multiunit residential structure.” It also applies to “one or more rooms rented for use as a permanent residence under a single lease to one or more tenants.”

For deaf-blind individuals who cannot see the flashing component, the landlord should provide a smoke alarm bed shaker.

The landlord is responsible for the purchase and installation of the visual smoke alarm, just as they are responsible for traditional, audible smoke alarms.

Gov. Rick Perry highlighted several laws taking effect Jan. 1 which institute reforms to the appraisal process to help property taxpayers.

“In addition to cutting taxes for 40,000 small business and leaving billions of dollars in our Rainy Day Fund this last session, we also implemented measures that will provide greater protection for property owners by adding transparency and fairness to the appraisal process,” Perry said.

HB 8 and 3612 by Rep. John Otto and SB 771 by Sen. Tommy Williams are among several bills that will improve the appraisal process, and include provisions that impose limits on what is considered a comparable sale for appraisal purposes; create an expedited arbitration process; and require substantial evidence to increase an appraisal after a successful appeal.

These changes will improve the fairness and accuracy of the appraisal process and increase the oversight of appraisal districts to ensure they are following uniform appraisal practices and procedures. HB 1038 by Rep. Ken Paxton ensures appraisers continue to consider all comparable properties when appraising a home, including those recently sold at foreclosure or that have decreased in value.

Additional measures to strengthen the appraisal process include the passage of Propositions 2 and 3 by Texas voters in November. Proposition 2 will ensure that residential property is appraised only based on its use as a homestead (instead of being appraised based on a hypothetical alternate use). Proposition 3 will allow the Legislature to adopt uniform statewide appraisal standards in the future. Both of these measures will increase transparency and accountability in the appraisal process.

Bacterial meningitis vaccinations will also be required for all new students living on campus. The legislature passed HB 4189 that requires all first-time students and transfer students who wish to live in campus residence halls or apartments to have a vaccination against bacterial meningitis. All first-time students and transfer students wishing to live on campus after Jan. 1, 2010, must provide appropriate documentation before moving into campus housing.

HB 1310 requires a parent or legal guardian to sign consent forms, in person, for children under 18, and prohibits the use of tanning facilities by anyone under the age of 16 1/2. Minors are allowed to use the facilities if authorized by a physician. Physicians must specify the number of tanning sessions allowed; if they do not, minors will be allowed to use facilities for a 12-month period.

Under the new law, parents or legal guardians must provide written consent in the presence of tanning device operator and remain at the facility while the minor uses the tanning device.  The tanning facility is responsible for keeping all records pertaining to a minor’s use of the facility.