Does your emergency repair need a city permit? Here is how you can find out

A tree with fallen branches has fallen on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri.
A tree with fallen branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

A tree with fallen branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Following a generational winter storm that left Texas in a state of disaster and hundreds of thousands in Austin temporarily without electricity and water, the city has launched a new section on its website to help homeowners navigate emergency repairs.

The city of Austin further announced Feb. 21 it is increasing its citywide home repair program by $1 million to aid low-income homeowners with emergency repairs to broken water pipes, roofing and other damages done by the winter storm.

“The [city’s] priority will be to mobilize resources to address the needs of our low- to moderate-income homeowners seeking much-needed resources following the storm,” said Rosie Truelove, director of the Austin Housing and Planning Department, in a Feb. 21 news release.

According to the city’s website, the department has a handful of home repair programs available to income-eligible homeowners in Austin. These programs can reward loans or grants for home rehabilitation projects, minor home repairs and more.

Some emergency repair work may be exempt from the city permit process, according to a new page on the city of Austin’s website.

Work that does not require a permit includes cosmetic work, exterior trim work and simple plumbing repairs. Small repairs in a space of 64 square feet or less on foundations, decking and some siding and drywall are further exempt from permit work, according to the city’s website.

However, larger emergency repairs required on homes that encountered burst pipes resulting from below-freezing temperatures will likely require permits from the city of Austin. Repairs to fix rupture or damaged water lines, main electrical service and structural damage will require a permit to fix.

The city website states Austin homeowners and business owners can begin emergency repairs if they are necessary to make the structure safe. Residents can receive retroactive permits following approval from an inspector if emergency repairs are necessary before receiving a permit. The city further asks residents to contact the Austin Development Services Department within one business day of beginning emergency repairs.

Property owners are also allowed to remove trees damaged by the winter storm without first receiving a permit, according to the city’s website. There is no fee for removal of damaged trees, though the city states documentation is required. A permit request must be submitted within 14 days of the tree removal.

The city’s website congregates other resources for property owners with questions about emergency repairs and permitting. For a full list of allowances and necessary permit requests, visit the city’s emergency repair page here. Homeowners may also contact Austin’s Emergency Repairs Customer Service Team at 512-974-1500.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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