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.