Texas Senate Talks About Protecting Homeowners After Natural Disasters

AUSTIN, Texas - State lawmakers met to discuss several items related to storm response, following Hurricane Harvey.

The Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce addressed four of the interim charges set by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The storm served as a reminder of the numerous ways homes — and the people who inhabit them — are impacted. Thousands of structures were destroyed by wind and water.

“Our destruction was water,” said Mayor of Orange, Jimmy Sims. “And we have one little community that had 62 inches of rain and that’s probably more than our annual rainfall.”

Rockport Mayor C.J. Wax also testified on Wednesday, explaining that the coastal bend needs more financial help from the state.

Others who testified explained the importance of Texans knowing how to prepare financially for a natural disaster.

“Those things do happen,” Texas Department of Savings & Mortgage Lending Commissioner Caroline Jones said after her testimony. She said fire was a danger to watch out for, as well as “dust storms in certain parts of our state,” like West Texas.

“Check on your property insurance, check on your auto insurance, your flood insurance, your wind storm [insurance] if that may be it, make sure you have insurance coverage that you need,” Jones mentioned, adding that she hoped disaster “never” affected the home buyer.

Mortgage expert John Fleming, who serves as general counsel for the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association, said up to four out of five homes damaged by flooding was “not in a special flood hazard area and therefore those homes were uninsured.”

He said financial relief for home buyers and homeowners is “very complicated.”

“We’ve got a concern in this state about the availability of the insurance to homeowners for natural disasters,” Fleming explained. “The homeowners in Amarillo do not necessarily want to subsidize the insurance premiums for a homeowner having a vacation home on Matagorda Island or South Padre. On the other hand we all enjoyed going down there and taking our vacations there as well.”

A constitutional amendment that would lower a cap on home equity loan fees from 3 percent down to 2 percent is up for a vote on the November ballot.

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