Permits for Home Repairs Related to Winter Storm Damage

Need to make emergency repairs following Winter Storm Uri? We are trying to make it as easy as possible. Some projects do not require permits. Also, work can begin right away on projects that present safety hazards in your home or business. Those residents should acquire retroactive permits as soon as possible after work begins to ensure your emergency repairs meet code requirements.

Contact our team with your emergency repair permitting questions at 512-974-1500 (Mon-Fri, 7:45a.m. to 4:45p.m.).

Do I need a permit to begin emergency repairs?

No, emergency repairs can begin right away to make your home or business safe. Please contact DSD within five business days of beginning repairs to receive necessary permits.
 

How much will these permits cost?

On April 22, the Austin City Council voted to extend permit fee waivers for emergency repairs and some registration and permitting requirements for storm-related plumbing repairs until June 1. The April ordinance follows previous Council actions in February and March that established the fee waivers for emergency repairs to residential structures and multifamily housing, such as apartment buildings. 

Do all repairs on my home require a permit?

The following types of repairs to your single family home or duplex never require a permit.

  • Cosmetic “finish work” (painting, installation and removal of papering, tiling, carpet, cabinets, countertops, etc.)
  • Small repairs (64 square feet or less) to foundations, floor or roof decking, and some siding and drywall (must comply with applicable Building Codes, City Codes, and other ordinances)
  • Exterior trim components
  • Simple plumbing repairs (stop leaks, clear clogs, or replace certain pipes if no inspection or coordination needed)

Learn more about work exempt from permits.
 

What projects will require permits?

For the safety of you and your home, these types of projects do require permits. 

  • Ruptured or damaged water lines
  • Main electrical service
  • Structural damage

If you must complete emergency repairs before receiving a permit, you will need a retroactive permit after an inspector ensures the work was completed according to code.

Not sure where to start or what this means for your repair? Contact our dedicated Customer Service Team (Mon-Fri, 8-5) at: 512-974-1500.
 

Does this apply to my commercial structure or apartment building?

Many permitting exemptions for homeowners also apply to commercial structures and multifamily residences, such as triplexes and apartment complexes. Fee waivers apply to multifamily residences, such as apartment buildings, but not to other commercial properties. Learn more about the commercial building and repair projects that do not require permits.
 

What else should I know about my home repair project?

  • Licensing and Registration: Some trades, including plumbers, HVAC mechanics and electricians, require registration with the City of Austin. Learn more.
     
  • Homestead Permits: In some cases, eligible homeowners can complete these projects. If you qualify for a Homeowner’s Homestead Permit, contact 512-974-1500 (Mon-Fri, 8-5) to register. DSD has simplified this permitting process by waiving the affidavit requirement through May 31, 2021, for homeowners making repairs following this winter weather event.
     
  • Express Permits: Some projects, such as replacing siding, simple bathroom remodels and roof work, always qualify for same-day express permits. Learn more about Express Permits
     
  • Community Resources: If you need emergency repairs that you do not have the resources to perform, please contact 2-1-1 or visit home repair programs.
     
  • Submitting Permits: Please note “Winter Event 2021 Repairs” on your description when submitting permit applications.
     

Do I need a permit to remove damaged trees from my property?

Austin’s Tree Ordinance allows for storm-related emergency tree removal before receiving a permit. There is no fee for a permit to remove a dead, diseased, or imminent hazard tree, but documentation will be required.

  • Contact your tree company to remove the tree.
  • Take photos and document the estimated diameter and size of the tree.
  • Submit a permit request within 14 days of removal.

On residential property, trees less than 19" diameter (measured 4'6" above grade) are unregulated and do not require permits for maintenance. Learn more about tree care.
 

What plumbing exceptions are in effect as a result of the recent winter weather event?

On February 25, the Austin City Council approved an ordinance (Item 5) that waives some permitting requirements for plumbing activities. Specifically, the ordinance extends the period of time allowed to pull a permit after emergency work begins and authorizes temporary waiver of permit requirements for repair of a leak in water distribution piping, including replacements of up to twelve inches (12") in length.  

These actions are in addition to recent waivers issued by the Governor, which temporarily allow work to be performed by certain plumber’s apprentices, under general supervision of a master plumber, and previously licensed plumbers whose licenses have expired within the past two years.

The Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners is able to issue provisional licenses to out-of-state plumbers to increase the response to burst pipes and flooding. To help ensure work is performed by a qualified plumber, residents are encouraged to ask for your plumber’s license.

 

Guidance for homeowners encountering damage
  • For burst pipes, you should turn off your affected utilities such as water, electricity assuming there are electrical wires or devices in the area, and natural gas if it is also affected by associated damage. 
     
  • Electricity.  To turn power off to the house:
    • Never approach downed power lines, call Austin Energy at 512-322-9100, can also be used to report outages
    • Locate electric meter on the exterior of the house, will be located near where the electric utility lines meet the house
    • Exterior disconnects are located adjacent to the electric meter, turn all circuit breakers or switches to the off position.
    • Interior disconnects are located directly behind the electric meter, turn all circuit breakers or switches to the off position.
    • Contact a licensed electrician to make repairs https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/LicenseSearch/
    • Electrical contractor can call Inspections 7am-2:30pm to request an emergency normal hours inspection: Commercial 512-974-3488 –or- Residential 512-974-2729
    • Emergency Inspections after 2:30pm can be requested by calling 512-974-2030
       
  • Water Supply
    • There should be a customer cut off valve located just outside the water meter box. For some customers, especially commercial accounts, that will require special tools. If you need Austin Water to come shut off the water for a leak, call 512-972-1000 and follow the prompts for a water/wastewater emergency.
    • If you have an electric water heater and have no water pressure, please turn off the electric supply to the water heater. In most recent homes there is either a switch or disconnect near the water heater. For some older homes without the disconnect near the water heater, you must use the electrical breaker to de-energize the water heater. This Breaker may be located inside the breaker panel inside the home.
    • If you have a gas water heater with no water pressure, please turn the gas control valve on the water heater to vacation mode (or VAC) until the water pressure can be restored. This will allow the pilot light to remain lit, but keep the water heater from continuing to heat the water. If necessary, there is a shut off valve at the gas meter, or you can call you gas service provider.
       
  • Natural Gas
    • If there is a gas leak, IMMEDIATELY EVACUATE the area, and from a safe location call 911 and your gas company.
    • Don’t smoke, or light a match, candle or other flame.
    • If the gas was shut off by the gas service provider or AFD, for any reason, you will need to pull a plumbing permit and follow the pulled gas meter procedures before the utility company will restore gas. No gas work is exempt from a permit.
    • Never use supplemental heating inside your dwelling such as a grill, oven, generator.
    • Starting in mid-2013 all new homes were required to have a Carbon Monoxide alarm.  In 2018 this requirement extended to existing homes.  If your home does not currently have a Carbon Monoxide alarm, please be prepared and obtain them now for your home and replace any units that have expired.  They typically last 5-7 years.  The requirements for these alarms can be found in the City’s adopted Property Maintenance Code (Section 705). 
       
  • Mechanical Systems (Air Conditioning)
    • First locate main electrical panel and then turn off power to both the indoor (s) and outdoor unit(s). This can be done either by locating the pull disconnect or by turning off breaker panel.
    • Refrigerant will need to be recovered by license mechanical contractor and reclaimed.
    • During an electrical power outage, turn off power to the furnace. When the electricity is restored to your home, the electricity grid may have some power fluctuations that could damage the electrical components of the furnace. Other sensitive appliances and electronics should be unplugged as well. It is safe to leave a light in the "on" position so that you will know when the power is restored. Once electricity is back, it should be safe to turn furnace back on.
       
  • Once the affected utilities are off, you can remove damaged material such as drywall, siding, and damaged finishes.  Use caution and do not remove structural elements unless you are a professional. 
     
  • If you encounter hazardous materials or are concerned that there may be hazardous materials in the damaged areas such as asbestos, lead, or refrigerant please contact a professional to assess the area and provide proper removal and disposal as regulated by the State and Federal government.
    • Refrigerant will need to be recovered by a licensed mechanical contractor and reclaimed.
Emergency Contractor Resources

The City of Austin is working with various community partners to provide emergency contractor resources to the business and residential community affected by the winter storm.  

Downtown Austin Alliance Emergency Repair Contractors – A City of Austin partnership providing a community list of providers specializing in plumbing, fire protection, HVAC and utility repairs. 

Search additional resources: 

 

Please note the City and community partners do not endorse any specific private company. These are community sourced resources to aid in timely emergency repairs. If you are a contractor (i.e., electrician, plumber, etc.) and want to help families and local businesses, complete the Emergency Repair Contractors Form to be added to the Emergency Repair Contractors list. 

Visit the Federal Trade Commission's Rebuilding Your Home or Office After a Weather Emergency and learn how to choose a contractor and how to pay for repair work.