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Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Community Tree Preservation

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:

 

When do I need a tree permit? If you live within the City of Austin zoning jurisdiction a Tree Ordinance Review Application is required when removing a protected size tree (or if you are performing construction work within the Critical Root Zone). Regulations about protected sized trees are online.

What are the steps for removing a protected size tree within the City of Austin? If you have a protected size tree within the City of Austin, complete and submit the Tree Ordinance Review Application and pay the applicable fee. Once these items are complete City staff will perform a site inspection and contact you about your request.

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). The 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 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."

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 25-12, Article 1 (Uniform 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 this section of the code.

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

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 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. 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.

  • See Code Compliance's webpage for more information on fences built for temporary use.

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.

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.