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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I plant or remove a tree in the public Right of Way?

Trees that are located within the public Right of Way are public trees, and are regulated by the Public Works Department. Planting or removal of trees in the public Right of Way requires approval by the City of Austin.

My neighbor's tree limbs are growing over my property line - can I prune these limbs?

This can be a tricky issue. Prior to any action occurring neighbors are encouraged to interact and discuss their concerns. Legally, this is a civil matter between the property owners. Typically a landowner may remove vegetation that crosses their property line (or the air space directly above it). We encourage establishing a plan that has been approved by all parties. We also encourage using ideal pruning techniques. *Note - No more than 25% of the canopy can be removed without a permit if the tree is protected size.

Will the City pick up my tree and yard clippings?

The City's Austin Resource Recovery (formerly Solid Waste Services) manages these concerns. 

Will the City prune or remove my tree?

The property owner is responsible for tree removal or required maintenance. If the tree is located on public property the City may perform the work. 

Who can I contact about trees around power lines?

For questions about trimming around power lines contact Austin Energy's tree trimming hotline at (512) 322- 6771 or email Utilityforestry@austinenergy.com.  If a tree has fallen on a powerline, then contact the Austin Energy call center at (512) 494 9400.

Who can I contact about other problems with trees?

There are multiple tree-related concerns that will determine if the City can assist you. Are limbs hampering traffic flow? Is a fallen tree clogging a waterway? Has a tree fallen on utility lines? Is a tree blocking the alley? Is a tree creating a blind spot at an intersection? For any of these issues you can can simply call 3-1-1.

 

Is ball moss killing my tree? In most cases, the answer is no. For a full explanation, read our fact file on ball moss.

There is something wrong with my trees. Can someone come out and look at them? The City of Austin does not provide tree consulting for citizens. While we are happy to answer basic questions over the phone or via email, we can not provide a full diagnosis of what may be ailing your tree(s). We recommend consulting with a certified arborist for those questions. Below are a few links that can help you find a Certified arborist in your area.

Oak Wilt - Please view our Oak Wilt Suppression page.

Can you recommend a good arborist? While we can not recommend specific arborists, we can certainly help you find a certified arborist that specializes in what you need. First however, it is important to know the difference between a consulting arborist and an arborist that trims and/or removes trees. Many arborists may do both, but typically if you need a diagnosis for what is wrong with your trees, you should hire a consulting arborist. If you have a tree that has been storm damaged or is dead, you should hire an arborist that specializes in tree trimming or removal. These links below can help you find an ISA Certified arborist in your area.

Tree Planting and Tree Selection Information
Please view the videos listed below:

 

What size trees are protected? A protected size tree is determined by measuring the tree trunk at 4.5 feet above ground. This is commonly known as DBH (diameter at breast height).  A tree within the Austin city limits is protected once it reaches 19 inches.  Diameter = Circumference / 3.1416 and Circumference = Diameter X 3.1416.

What is the review process for a tree removal permit?

  • When development of a residential property contains a protected size tree, the tree review will occur simultaneously with the residential building plan.  The tree permit will be created along with the residential building permit.
  • When a protected tree is not development-related, but impacted by utility issues, disease or other conditions, a Tree Ordinance Review Application is required. 

Click here to learn more about the review and application submittal process.

 Click here to view Code Regulations about protected sized trees.

What is the purpose of a tree survey? A tree survey tag is usually an aluminum circular or rectangular label attached to the tree trunk. A tag is used for physically identifying a tree with a specific number. This number is referenced on a site plan or survey. It does not mean the tree is marked to be saved or removed.

Who do I contact if I have a tree removal question? Please email us at: cityarborist@austintexas.gov or contact 311

What are some benefits of trees? Trees supply character to a landscape, create a sense-of-place, provide a habitat for plants and animals, promote interacting within the community, temper local climate, reduce storm water runoff/erosion, diminish building lines, conceal unsightly views, provide solitude, assist in conserving energy, and increase property values.

Can you identify what type of tree this is? There are over 100 tree species in the Hill Country area. Access the following sites for additional information: Austin Grow Green and Texas A&M Horticulture - Texas Native Trees.

How do I measure a tree? See the Tree_Measurement_Diagram.

How do you tell the age of a tree? The Texas Forest Service states, "Every year a tree goes through a growing season when conditions are right for it to gain size. A ring forms on the inside of tree for each year that tree has been alive. A simple core sample can be taken using a special tool known as an increment borer. The rings on this core sample are then counted to determine the age of that tree."

Building Inspections

Anyone associated with the permit can schedule an inspection via telephone or on the City of Austin's website. Click here to learn how to schedule a building inspection.

When choosing a contractor for your project, be sure to look for  a licensed contractor who will go through the proper permitting process with the City of Austin. Read our tips on selecting a contractor.

Development Assistance Center

Since 1931, all residential buildings in Austin have been required to have a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for its current use. Sometimes a homeowner discovers their property does not have a CO on record, in which case a new one (known as an Amnesty Certificate of Occupancy) must be obtained. If your property qualifies for an Amnesty CO, the application can be found in Residential Building Review’s forms and applications, which can be found here along with their location and hours of operation. Submit a complete application package to Residential Building Review during general information walk-in hours. If you do not meet the requirements (your house was built after 1986), then you must reenter the permitting process to obtain a new CO. Looking to get a CO for a non-residential property? Your process will begin with the Development Assistance Center (DAC).

A home occupation is a commercial use that is accessory to a residential use. A home occupation must comply with the requirements of Section 25-2-900 of the Austin City Code.

Advertising a home occupation by a sign on the premises is prohibited, except as provided under Section 25-10-156 (Home Occupation Signs).  Advertising the street address of a home occupation through signs, billboards, television, radio, or newspapers is prohibited.

The following are prohibited as home occupations:

  • animal hospitals, animal breeding;
  • clinics, hospitals;
  • hospital services;
  • contractors yards;
  • dance studios;
  • scrap and salvage services;
  • massage parlors other than those employing massage therapists licensed by the state;
  • restaurants;
  • cocktail lounges;
  • rental outlets;
  • equipment sales;
  • adult oriented businesses;
  • recycling centers;
  • drop-off recycling collection facilities;
  • an activity requiring an H-occupancy under Section 25-2, Article 5, Home Occupations (Building Code);
  • automotive repair services; and
  • businesses involving the repair of any type of internal combustion engine, including equipment repair services.

For information about Residential Tours and Garage Sales, please visit sections 25-2-902 and 25-2-903 of the code.

For more information contact the Development Assistance Center, (512) 974-6370.

For questions about zoning or to obtain zoning verification of a property, contact the Development Assistance Center, at 512-978-4000.

For questions about a Certificate of Occupancy, contact the Development Services Department, Building Inspections, at 512- 978-4000.

The Development Services Department is located at 505 Barton Springs Road.

Permits

The City of Austin requires a permit for any person, firm or corporation to erect, construct, enlarge, alter, repair, improve, remove, convert, move or demolish any building or structure within the City’s zoning jurisdiction or in a Municipal Utility District (MUD) if the consent agreement between the MUD and the City requires insurance of a permit prior to construction. Unless specifically exempted by the City Code, permits are required within the City’s zoning jurisdiction; in MUDs or for electrical and plumbing work in other areas outside the City’s zoning jurisdiction where City utilities are provided. A separate permit is required for each building or structure where work occurs.

A permit expires on the 181st day if the project has not scheduled nor received an inspection.  A  “Canceled” and/or “Failed/No Work Performed” inspection result does not extend the expiration date.  

Questions regarding fences are common. This page has some helpful information on fencing and its regulation in the City of Austin.

  • You do not need a permit to build an at or below 8' high fence of any material, i.e. wood, metal or stone provided it is not located within a floodplain hazard area.  If you are uncertain whether your property is located within a floodplain area, please contact the Watershed Protection Department at 512-974-2843.
  • You can build a "solid" fence between the heights of 6 and 8 foot, given it either meets the requirements of City Code 25-2-899 (Sections E-G) or you obtain a variance from the City of Austin Board of Adjustment. In both circumstances the homeowner will be required to obtain written authorization from the adjacent property owners that are affected by the fence. If the adjacent property owner is the City of Austin, you will NOT be able to obtain that authorization letter; you must go straight to the Board of Adjustments and ask for a variance.
  • You cannot build a "solid" fence over 8 feet high. A fence considered "ornamental" may be built higher than 8 feet after a permit has been obtained. Please see Section (B) of City Code 25-2-899 for the difference between "ornamental" and "solid."
  • The City of Austin does not regulate, delegate, prevent or police the types of materials that may be used in the construction of a fence.

If you have additional questions about fences, please contact the Development Assistance Center at (512) 978-4000

 

Inside the City Limits (full purpose annexation) – Zoning, Subdivision, Site plan, Building, Trade and Concrete permits required.

If your property is totally within the City of Austin and you are erecting, constructing, enlarging, altering, repairing, improving, removing, converting, moving, demolishing any building or structure, you are required to obtain a City of Austin Building Permit, a site plan (development permit), or a site plan exemption. Depending on the extent of your work, you may be required to obtain one or more of the following permits

Inside the City Limits (limited purpose annexation) – The same rules above apply.  In addition, Travis County requires development permits, building permits and driveway permits.

Extra-territorial Jurisdiction (not limited purpose annexation) – The extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) is that area extending five miles outside the City of Austin corporate limits. All development in the ETJ is required to obtain site plan (development permit) approvals or site plan exemptions from the City. In addition, plumbing and/or electrical permits may be required if the project is served by City utilities (ETJ fees will be assessed in addition to the permit fees). Development and driveway permits are required by Travis County and Hays County.

All areas inside the city limits and/or ETJ (other commonly required approvals):

  • Austin/Travis County Health Department permits, if the project needs a septic system or if it is a sanitary land fill or salvage yard. LCRA has jurisdiction for permits for septic tanks adjacent to Lake Travis.
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service permits for endangered species habitats.
  • Texas Water Commission permit for projects over the Edwards Aquifer.
  • Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Corps of Engineers approval for drainage modifications.
  • Projects involving single family boat docks, earthwork, site clearing, utilities, and street and drainage improvements require a site plan (development permit) or site plan exemption. Boat docks also require building and electrical (if lighted) permits along Lake Austin. 

Contact the Planning and Development Review Department for information regarding permitting requirements at (512) 978-4000.

Residential Plan Review

Demolition permits are necessary if you remove any portion of an exterior wall, roof, or structure.
Demolition permits are not required for the removal of interior walls.

More information is available on the Demolition & Relocation page.

On average, it takes 15 business days for your permit application to be reviewed once submitted and paid.
There are two ways to check the status of your permit application:

  • On the Austin Build + Connect website, use the Public Search link.
    Enter your address using the "Search by Property/Project Name/Types/Date Range" section at bottom of the page.
  • Call or Email the assigned reviewer

Review staff will be assigned once the application has been paid and processed, which can take a couple of days.
Once assigned, you may contact your reviewer via email or telephone, which can be found three different ways:

  • If you have already received a Master Comment Report, your reviewer's contact information will be printed on the report.
  • Using Public Search on Austin Build + Connect, the reviewers name and contact phone number will be listed in the Permit Details under "Process And Notes".
    Intake staff provides a proof of submittal when applications are submitted. This will include a PR (Permit) number that you can use to check status as well as reviewers.
  • Call 512-978-4000 and request the reviewer’s contact information and/or to be connected to the reviewer.

(Qless is our remote check-in system. It allows you to sign-in remotely and reduce the time spent waiting in the reception area for service.)

 

To turn in an application, update, or revision use one of these lines:

Residential – Express & Total Demo
Use this line if you are turning in an express application or a total demolition.

Residential – Permit Application Submittals
Use this line if you are turning in an application, update, or revision that is not an express or a total demolition.

 

For questions use one of these lines:

Residential – Structural & Building Safety Assistance
For questions related to how a structure should be constructed or related to the International Building Code.

Residential – Zoning & Process Help
For questions regarding zoning of a property, what can be built on the property, or if you have general questions regarding the application or submittal requirements.

The new review times chart on the Review Times For Residential Plan Review page became effective on May 16, 2017.

These review times will be reviewed on an annual basis beginning in Fiscal Year 2018 and may be adjusted based on the availability of additional resources, the mandate of additional code requirements without additional resources, or a reduction of development within the City of Austin.

A scaled drawing is one that shows the object with accurate size reduction or enlargement by a certain amount and can be measured with a common architectural or engineer scale.
A common scale for floor plans is 1/4" = 1’-0” (one quarter inch is equal to one foot).

If you are hand drawing your plans, use graph paper to make it easier to draw to scale.
Graph paper comes in various sizes, including a size where each square measures 1/4" (one quarter inch), making it easy for each square to represent 1’-0” (one foot).

Our review staff uses both architectural and engineering scales for measuring plans to check they meet code requirements.
These scales are similar to rulers and can be purchased at office supply, hobby shops, and at some reprographic companies.
If staff cannot verify a measurement, this will lead to delays in the plan review process.

You can find websites and videos online to help you use and read an architectural or engineering scale.
A reviewer may also help you during a free 20 minute consultation.

Impervious cover is any type of surface that doesn’t absorb rainfall. Surfaces such as stone, rooftops, patios, driveways, sidewalks, roadways, parking lots, and some decks are considered impervious cover. Uncovered wooden decks count as 50% impervious cover.

Impervious cover does not include sidewalks or paving in the public right-of-way or water features such as ponds, fountains, and water detention basins, porous pavement. Access ramps used for the disabled can be exempted if they meet the requirements of Section 25-8-63(C)(10) of the Land Development Code. You can meet with a reviewer to discuss the details if you believe you might be eligible.

Dependent on zoning designation, a certain percentage of impervious cover is permitted on a property. A reviewer can help you calculate your impervious cover, but if you would like to do it yourself, download this Building and Impervious Cover Calculation Aid spreadsheet.

Find your zoning via the Property Profile online tool

After the Property Profile page loads, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the “Address Search” Icon at the top of the page
  2. Enter the address in the Address Search Field
  3. Click "Next" button
  4. The page will populate with information about the property. In the first section there is a Zoning Profile link.
    Clicking on the link will take you to the Zoning Profile Report that will tell you your zoning district and zoning overlays (such as a Neighborhood Plan), and Zoning Ordinance (if zoned after 2000).

Determine what you can do with your property

Once you have determined what you want to build: a new home, addition, renovation, deck, shed, etc., Residential Review staff can guide you to applicable regulations.
Review staff are available 8:00am to noon on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for free 20 minute consultations to answer your questions. If you need more time you may schedule a Residential Preliminary Plan Review paid consultation.

Depending on your project needs, you may want to hire a licensed professional such as an engineer, architect, or surveyor to provide assistance with the project or completing the permitting process. Your reviewer can tell you which parts of your application need to be filled out by a licensed professional during your consultation.

Some customers also choose to hire permit expediters to help them apply for permits. You can search for permit expediters on the internet.

Revisions where no review is necessary are Minor Revisions.
Examples of minor revisions are removing sidewalk in exchange for fee in lieu of, or adding trade (electrical, mechanical, plumbing) permits that do not change the scope of work.

All revisions requiring a review are considered Major Revisions.

Reprographic companies can assist with reprinting your plans to scale.
These companies are similar to a copy shop but are used throughout the construction industry for printing and scanning construction plans.

You can search for local reprographic companies on the internet.

Zoning

A zoning change can be requested by submitting an application to the Intake division of the Development Services Department. Please contact (512) 974-7208, (512)  974-2681 or (512)  974-2350 to schedule an appointment. A pre-application conference with planners in the Development Assistance Center is encouraged.