Ken Paxton

Checklists for Utility Connection Eligibility in Border-Area Counties of Texas (Sept. 2001)

Several Texas laws contain requirements governing utility connections. These requirements vary depending upon such factors as the location and the use of the land to be served, the history of the subdividing and selling of the property, the type and history of utility service, and the availability or feasibility of water service. Listed below are links to checklists reflecting the requirements in counties subject to Subchapter B of Chapter 232 of the Texas Local Government Code -- that is, those counties any part of which is within 50 miles of the Rio Grande. For shorthand, these counties are referred to as "border-area counties."

In border-area counties, unless a legal exemption applies, a certificate from the county or a city (and sometimes from both) is necessary before a utility may provide water, sewer, gas, or electric service to land in a residential subdivision. Different kinds of certificates are needed depending upon the particular circumstances related to the property. Even with the certificate or certificates, sometimes further conditions must be met to receive utility service. On the other hand, there are various exemptions from the city and county certificate requirements, particularly when service has already been established.

The principal legal requirements are found in the Texas Local Government Code ("LGC"), especially LGC §§ 212.0115 and 212.012 (city certificates and exemptions) and LGC §§ 232.028 and 232.029 (county certificates and exemptions). City requirements generally apply to all land (not just residential lots) within cities and their ETJ's. In fact, these city requirements apply to cities throughout the state, not just in the border area. The county requirements apply only in subdivisions to which Subchapter B applies (see LGC § 232.022). In other words, the county requirements apply only to lots in a subdivision of two or more lots outside city limits intended primarily for residential use. Further, Subchapter B and its platting requirements and utility-connection restrictions do not apply if the land is subdivided by giving parcels to close family members. So for example, for a subdivision of non-residential lots, the utility-connection restrictions of the county do not apply, but the city's restrictions do apply if the land is inside the city or its ETJ.

Different checklists need to be used depending upon where the land is located (inside a city, inside a city's extraterritorial jurisdiction or "ETJ," or outside any ETJ) and what utility service is sought. Note that these eligibility requirements are to be followed by utility companies when they serve or connect land. The requirements do not relate to services supplied on the properties - for example, a water well, an on-site sewage facility (like a septic system), a solar panel array, or a propane tank on an individual lot.

Originally the utility-connection restrictions were fairly simple. A lot was eligible for utilities if (1) it was part of an approved subdivision plat or (2) it was not required to be platted. City and/or county certificates stating such were required for utility service. "Grandfathering" provisions allowed continued service to lots having utility service prior to certain dates. However, in 1995 the basic rule was modified (as to county certificates only) so that for a lot in a residential subdivision to obtain electricity or gas, the subdivision must have water and sewer (or be septic-suitable). "Grandfathering" provisions were expanded. "Hardship" provisions have since been added to allow, at the discretion of the local governments, utility services to some lots caught by various changes in the laws. The result is that there are several options under which a given lot may be eligible for a particular utility service. Further, within a city's ETJ's, to obtain utility service a lot must fulfill the conditions of one city option and the (often different) conditions of one county option. These options are detailed in the checklists.

How to Use the Checklists

  1. Determine whether the land is (1) inside a city's limits, (2) within a city's ETJ (as defined in LGC § 212.001), or (3) out in the county beyond all cities and their ETJ's. It may be necessary to check with nearby cities. Cities are required by law (LGC § 41.001) to maintain up-to-date maps of their city limits and ETJ's and to have copies in the city clerk's or secretary's office.
  2. Pick out the correct checklist(s) from the list below, depending upon the location of the land and the type of utility service sought. Print the checklist.
  3. Going down the selected checklist, fill in the squares for the conditions that apply or are true. If all the squares under some particular option are filled in, you may be able to obtain service.
  4. Read the notes at the end of the identified option for further explanation.
  5. Read the heading immediately following the option number. If it reads, "Exemption under [some particular law]," then you may go directly to the utility with evidence showing that the condition or conditions for the exemption are satisfied.
  6. On the other hand, if the heading after the option number reads, "Conditions under LGC 212....," go to the city (try the planning department or clerk) to see about getting the appropriate certificate. If the heading reads, "Conditions under LGC 232....," go to the county (try the county planner, engineer, clerk, or judge's office) to see about getting a certificate from the Commissioners Court. Take with you to the city and/or county whatever documents you have that show the conditions under that option are satisfied. Remember, if you are in a city's ETJ, you will have to simultaneously fulfill the conditions for one city eligibility option and one county eligibility option.
  7. Further details about the options may be found by looking up in the Red Book the particular laws cited. Also, this website has examples of forms for use in the certificate process.