City of Austin codes and ordinances protect our health and safety. Codes regulate proper property upkeep, land use, and building conditions. What can you do to make sure your property stays safe? ?
Here are tips to help inspect your property:
Doors – are all doors working properly and in good repair? Make sure there’s no damage to the door jambs, hardware, weather stripping, or protective treatment.
Windows – are all window panes in place and unbroken? Are the window locks working? Windows should be weather tight with no breezes or moisture coming through. If used as an emergency exit, make sure it can open and is unobstructed.
Walls, floors, & ceilings – are they in good condition? Make sure there are no cracks, holes, gaps, trip hazards, or damage to these surfaces.
Electrical – Check your light switches and outlets to see if they are working and in good repair. Make sure there is no exposed or damaged wiring.
Sink, toilet, tub, & shower – are the faucets and fixtures working correctly? Is there sufficient water pressure? Check that the water gets hot enough – it should be able to reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit after three minutes of running.
Appliances & cabinets – are they damaged, inoperable, or missing parts?
HVAC system – can it heat the room to at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit? Make sure the exhaust pipe is properly connected and the area is kept clear.
Fire protection – Are the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms working? Make sure there is a working alarm in your bedroom and at least one alarm in the common area.
Water heater – Is there sufficient water pressure? Make sure that water can get up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (after three minutes of running) and keep the area clear.
Infestation – Look for signs of rodents, bed bugs, roaches, fleas, bees, or other pests.
Stairway – are the treads in good repair and secure? Check for trip hazards and an appropriate stair riser (or step height) on the stairs.
Balcony, deck, porch, patio, & landing – are the walking surfaces in good repair, smooth, and undamaged? Make sure support systems are anchored and functional.
Handrails & guardrails – are they in good repair and secure? Check that the rails are not cracked, loose, missing, incorrectly spaced, or lacking protective treatment.
Walls – are they in good condition? Make sure there is no damage and they have the proper trim, protective treatment, and remain weather tight to protect the inside.
Electrical fixtures – are they in good repair? Make sure any wiring is covered up.
Plumbing – is there a backflow preventer installed on the hose bib? Is there leaking? Check the clean-out covers and piping.
Roof – is the roof covering, soffit, and fascia all intact and in good repair? Make sure there are no leaks in the rain gutters or downspouts.
Fences, walls, sidewalks, parking surfaces & carports – Are they in good repair and undamaged? Check for potholes, trip hazards, and uneven walking surfaces.
Trash – Is there trash and rubbish around the property, overflowing dumpsters? Check if there is old furniture, tires, or junk outside of the dumpster.
Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of potential code issues, rather these are some common issues that code inspectors check for during an inspection. If you have questions, please contact Code Connect at 512-974-2633 (CODE).
- Businesses and Industry
Businesses and industries must have all required City approvals such as permits, site plans, inspections and certificates of occupancy. These regulate many aspects of the business, such as the number of parking spaces, type of lighting, type of signage, plumbing requirements, etc. If there has been a change in a local business that is affecting your neighborhood or home, the business may not be in compliance. View permits issued to specific businesses.
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors
As of April 1, 2018, any structure that is used for residential purposes and uses gas or fuel-burning appliances and/or has an attached garage that connects to the structure, are required to install and maintain Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms.
Download our English and Spanish flyers to learn more (PDF 225kb).
LOCATION OF ALARMS
If there is a gas or fuel-burning appliance inside the bedroom or inside an attached bathroom to the bedroom, then the alarm must be placed inside the bedroom. Alarms must also be installed outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms, when the gas or fuel-burning appliance is outside the bedroom and/or there is an attached garage that connects to the dwelling unit. A gas or fuel-burning appliance includes, but is not limited to: a water heater, furnace, space heater, stove, oven, boiler and/or a fireplace.
- Construction Without a Permit
Property owners or their agents must get a permit to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, demolish or move a structure. In addition, they must get a permit to change the use of a structure (for example, to change a residence into an office). View permits issued by the City.
- Dangerous Structures
Dangerous structures must be made safe or demolished. Dangerous conditions include potential structural failure, exposed electrical wiring, heavy fire damage and abandoned, open structures. Vacant buildings must be adequately secured by fencing and/or boarding. The City of Austin enforces the Uniform Housing Code and the Dangerous Building Code to regulate dangerous structures.
Fences must be in sound condition and at an appropriate height. On a corner lot, fences must not block the view of traffic at the intersection. In residential areas, solid fences may not be more than 6 feet tall with two exceptions:
- If the fence is around a pool or another hazard and if permission from all adjoining neighbors is filed with the City, then a residential fence may be 8 feet tall.
- If the fence is between a residence and a commercial property, it may be 8 feet tall.
- Fire-Damaged Buildings
Code enforcement is notified of structure fires and sends an investigator to assess the damage and ensure the building is adequately secured. Buildings must either be repaired or demolished to meet code standards.
- Garage Conversions
The City of Austin requires building permits to convert or renovate a garage into a living space (this includes a storage room, bedroom, game room, office, etc.).
Already have a Garage Conversion?
If a garage conversion has been completed, a permit must be issued, an inspection performed, and a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) issued to ensure that the garage conversion meets the minimum standards of the city code. Your garage conversion is not legal unless a CO has been issued.
Thinking about a Garage Conversion?
If a permit has not been issued, or you are planning to convert your garage, contact Residential Plan Review at 512-978-4000. Staff in Residential Plan Review will walk you through the building permit application process and advise you of the necessary steps to ensure that your converted garage meets Austin city code.
If your home is located in a floodplain, there are additional requirements. To see if your property is located within the floodplain: call the Floodplain Office at 512-974-2843 or visit the Floodpro website (click “Floodplain Information” and enter your address)
What do I do to get started?
The application and instructions are available online. If you have questions about the application process, City staff can provide assistance and guide you through the process by calling Residential Plan Review, at 512-978-4000.
How much will it cost to get a permit?
You can find a comprehensive list of residential permit fees here.
What if I do not get a permit for my garage conversion?
Failure to get a permit and inspection may result in enforcement action.
I purchased my home with a converted garage. Am I responsible for getting a permit if a permit was not issued?
Yes, all garage conversions must meet life/safety requirements of the City Code.
Why do i have to do anything if i bought it this way?
All life/safety requirements of the City Code go with a property, not the owner.
How do I know if I am in a FloodPlain? If I am, what do I do?
If your home is located in a floodplain, there are additional requirements. To see if your property is located within the floodplain: call the Floodplain Office at 512-974-2843 or visit the Floodpro website (click “Floodplain Information” and enter your address).
- Garage Sales
A garage sale may not be held at the same property more than four days per calendar year or at a property participating in a residential tour (Residential Tours, Section 25-2-902). More than four garage sales per calendar year is a violation of the City Code and is considered a home-based business (Home Occupation, Section 25-2-900). In addition, signs advertising the garage sale may only be posted on the property where the sale is occurring for no more than three consecutive days.
- Garbage Carts Left at the Curb
Garbage carts must be returned to their storage area on private property by 10 p.m. on the designated collection day. They should be placed at the curb by 6:30 a.m. on collection day but not prior to 8 p.m. the evening before.
- Housing in Substandard Condition
Landlords are obligated to maintain their rental properties to the minimum standards set by the Uniform Housing Code and the Dangerous Building Code. Examples of violations include heating problems, plumbing problems, electrical problems, lack of weather protection and structural hazards.
- Illegal Dumping
You may not dump garbage or unwanted items. There are several landfills in the Austin area where you may dispose of items that you no longer want for a fee. Code enforcement pursues two goals with illegal dumping - ensuring the dump site is cleaned up and catching the perpetrator. If caught, offenders may be required to clean up the dump site and pay a fine. However, cleaning up the dump site is ultimately the responsibility of the property owner.
- Junk and Accumulated Rubbish
Austin residents may not accumulate garbage, rubbish, brush, filth, carrion or any other unsightly, objectionable or unwholesome matter on their property. In addition, you may not store any material on a vacant lot.
- Mobile Vendor on Private Property
Mobile vendors may not be located on residential private property or property zoned LO (Limited Office), NO (Neighborhood Office) or GO (General Office) per City Code 25-2-812 - Mobile Food Establishments. On the right of way, mobile vendors are regulated by the Austin Transportation Department and the Austin Police Department.
- Running a Business from Home
Home businesses are highly regulated. Businesses that cannot be run from home include auto repair shops, contractor's yards, adult-oriented businesses and retail businesses. You also may not store commercial vehicles at your home.
You may not post a sign in the right of way or on public property. In residential areas, you may post the following signs on private property temporarily:
- Contractors' signs
- Garage or yard sale signs
- Neighborhood meeting signs
- Political signs
- Real estate signs
Off-premise signs are prohibited. For example, a garage sale sign can only be placed where the sale is taking place, or a house for sale sign can only be placed on the property where the house is being sold. In non-residential areas, all signs must be on private property. A permit is required for a permanent sign, such as a business sign. The City of Austin does not regulate the content of billboards.
The City has a sign ordinance (Chapter 25-10 Sign Regulations) that regulates all signs, including political campaign signs. View the Bandit Signs FAQ flyer (PDF 3MB) to learn more about bandit signs.
- Stagnant Water
Stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Property owners must drain stagnant water on their properties. Typical sources of stagnant water include pools in disrepair, tires and buckets.
The Austin Code Department Reminds You to “Fight the Bite”
The Austin Code Department is reminding residents to eliminate stagnant water and tall weeds and grass to prevent mosquito bites that could lead to the Zika and West Nile viruses, as well as increase pest and rodent infestation and create other health problems.
Mosquitoes only need a teaspoon of water to breed. During warmer months, mosquitoes can develop in as little as three days. City disease detectives are tracking mosquito activity and posting the latest alerts, guidance and information here:
For questions or more information about ways to reduce mosquitoes around your property, or to report stagnant water or tall weeds and grass, please call 3-1-1.
Educational videos and flyers in English and Spanish, instructing residents how to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and biting, are now available: http://www.austintexas.gov/department/environmental-rodent-and-vector-control.
For further information regarding ways to Fight the Bite, be sure to monitor Grass and Tall Weeds!
STEPS:1. Dump or Drain any stagnant water – even if it’s a tiny amountMosquitos can breed in as small as a teaspoon of stagnant water. After watering your yard or rainfall, check your flower pots, fountains, buckets, or other objects for leftover stagnant water. Dump, drain, and flip over any empty containers that collect water.2. Identify standing water on your propertyAustin is prone to flooding and heavy rains, but if there is a part of your property where the water doesn’t drain, like a ditch or depression, fill or drain it quickly. For consistent drainage issues, you may have to do some DIY, but if stagnant water stays in a low lying area for a long period of time, it can produce swarms of mosquitos, so it’s best to address it as soon as you notice it.3. Call 311 to report any stagnant water in your local areaIf you notice stagnant water in your area that isn’t being addressed, call 3-1-1. A Code Officer will be assigned to work with the property owner to address the issue, so we can work together to keep mosquito populations at bay.
Download a Stagnant Water Flyer (PDF 1.5 MB)
- Storage of Vehicles
There are a number of regulations that concern the storage of vehicles in a residential area.
- There must not be more vehicles stored at a residence than there are licensed drivers. Additional vehicles must be in the garage.
- All vehicles must be functional, with the exception of antique vehicles or recreational vehicles. One vehicle under repair for less than 60 days is allowed.
- Residents may keep two antique or recreational vehicles, such as a boat or RV, screened behind a 6-foot wood or masonry fence.
- Only one commercial vehicle (with a capacity less than one ton) may be stored at a residence.
Please report junked or abandoned vehicles to the Austin Police Department by calling 3-1-1, downloading and submitting using the 3-1-1 Mobile App or by submitting an APD Vehicle Abatement Report using the 3-1-1 Web Form.
- Swimming Pools
Swimming pools in residential areas must be enclosed by an approved fence. In addition, swimming pools must be maintained to prevent them from holding stagnant water. The City of Austin's Health and Human Services Department regulates public pools and pools at apartments, hotels and motels.
- Tree Limbs Blocking Right of Way
Property owners must trim trees that hang over the street. There must be at least 14 feet of clearance at the curb line. The Public Works Department handles trees that fall and block the right of way.
- Weeds or Grass Over 12 Inches
Grass and weeds must be less than 12 inches tall.
Did you know that grass and weeds more than 12 inches in height is considered an unsanitary condition and a code violation? City code (City of Austin Code 10-5, Article 2) requires that grass and weeds be maintained below 12 inches.
While short grass and weeds may look nice, it is also an important way to prevent rodents, insects and stagnant water from developing as a result of overgrowth. When grass and weeds are maintained below 12 inches, our community not only looks better, but it's also cleaner and safer.
Do you have concerns about tall grass and weeds?
Please contact Austin 3-1-1 to submit your service request.
Adult-oriented businesses, like all businesses, must be located in the appropriate zone. In addition, they must not be located within 1,000 feet of a church, school, public park, public playground, licensed daycare or a lot where another adult-oriented business is located. You may not run an adult-oriented business from your home.