Glossary of Terms & Abbreviations Related to Colonias-Prevention Laws

Border area
As used in these explanations, a Texas county, any part of which is located within 50 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. These are also called "Subchapter B" counties, because in them residential subdivisions outside city limits are subject to the colonias-prevention provisions in Subchapter B of Chapter 232, Local Govt. Code.

Build it or bond it
A shorthand term for the requirement (common to several colonias-prevention laws) that when creating a new residential subdivision, the subdivider must either (1) install water and sewer service facilities prior to approval of the subdivision plat, or (2) provide a financial guarantee (such as a bond or a letter of credit) to cover the utilities' cost if they are not installed by a promised operability date stated on the plat.

Certificate for utilities
The paperwork issued by a city or county often required before a lot is eligible for utility service of one kind or another. Several of different kinds of certificates are provided for in the statutes.

Chapter 212, Local Govt. Code
The main Texas law governing city regulation of subdivisions and property development (but not land use or building construction).

Chapter 232, Local Govt. Code
The main Texas law governing county regulation of subdivisions. Colonias-prevention laws are found in Subchapters B, C, and E of Chapter 232.

Typically, a residential area lacking some basic infrastructure like a drinking water supply, sewage treatment, paved roads, adequate drainage, etc. "Colonia" is a Spanish word for neighborhood.

Contract for deed
An agreement under which land is sold through installment payments, with the seller providing a deed to the land only after all the payments have been made.

Economically Distressed Areas Program (EDAP)
A program of the Texas Water Development Board through which financial assistance is provided to local governments for water and wastewater projects in economically distressed areas. Counties eligible are those along the Texas-Mexico border and those having high unemployment and low per-capita income.

Extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ)
The area surrounding an incorporated city within which the city can exercise various powers as authorized by several laws. Its purpose is "to promote and protect the general health, safety, and welfare of persons residing in and adjacent to" cities. As defined in Chapter 42 of the Local Government Code, a city's ETJ generally extends from ½ to 5 miles beyond the city limits, depending upon the number of its inhabitants. In border counties, a city with a population by federal census of 5,000 or more has a special 5-mile ETJ for subdivision review and approval purposes, as provided by Local Government Code § 212.001.

Final Engineering Report
A report concerning the water and sewer facilities that will serve lots in a planned residential subdivision. Required by the TWDB's Model Subdivision Rules to accompany a plat when final approval is sought, the report must contain the information described in 31 TAC § 364.52.

Model Rules or Model Subdivision Rules
Rules developed by the Texas Water Development Board under Water Code § 16.343, primarily to assure water and sewer services in new residential subdivisions in certain parts of the state. These colonias-prevention rules were first mandated by the original Economically Distressed Areas Program legislation in 1989. Initially the model rules were required to be adopted and enforced just by counties and cities seeking EDAP funding, but now they must be enforced by all counties within 50 miles of the border. The first version was published in May 1990. Revised Model Subdivision Rules, effective 2/10/2000, are codified in the Texas Administrative Code at 31 TAC Chapter 364.

The term used in Texas statutes to refer to an incorporated city. For simplicity, "city" is used herein.

Office of the Attorney General of Texas

On-site sewage facility (OSSF)
A sewage disposal system handling 5,000 gallons or less of sewage daily and located (at least partially) on the site where sewage is produced. Commonly an OSSF is a "septic system" with a septic tank and a drainfield, but more sophisticated systems are permitted. OSSF are regulated by state law (Chapter 366, Health and Safety Code) and TCEQ rules (30 TAC Chapter 285). Many local governments have been delegated as the authorized agents of the TCEQ to implement and enforce the rules within their boundaries.

A document typically containing a map of the lots and streets in a subdivision, the acknowledgment of the landowner/subdivider, and other information as required by state laws and local platting rules.

Recorded plat
A plat that has been recorded with the county clerk's office following approval by the appropriate local governments (city and/or county).

Subchapter A, Chapter 212, Local Govt. Code
The primary Texas statute regarding city approval of subdivisions. It consists of sections 212.001 through 212.018.

Subchapter A, Chapter 232, Local Govt. Code
The law under which counties statewide typically regulate subdivisions of land. In border-area counties, Subchapter A applies only to non-residential subdivisions, because residential subdivisions are subject instead to Subchapter B. It consists of sections 232.001 through 232.010.

Subchapter B, Chapter 232, Local Govt. Code
The special colonias-prevention law with enhanced requirements for platting, selling, and connecting utilities to residential land outside city limits in any county within 50 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. This subchapter was first enacted in 1995 with the passage of HB 1001. It consists of sections 232.021 through 232.043.

Subchapter C, Chapter 232, Local Govt. Code
The special colonias-prevention law requiring water and sewer facilities in new subdivisions outside city limits in economically-distressed counties that are not near the border. It consists of sections 232.071 through 232.080.

Subchapter D, Chapter 5, Property Code
A recently-amended Texas law governing use of contracts for deeds when the real property being sold will be the residence of the buyer or a close relative of the buyer. It consists of sections 5.061 through 5.080.

Subchapter E, Chapter 232, Local Govt. Code
A new law expanding the powers of certain populous counties and adjoining counties to make rules for subdivisions. Along the border, the law applies to Cameron, Hidalgo, El Paso, and Webb Counties. It consists of sections 232.100 through 232.107.

Typically speaking, to divide the surface area of land into lots for sale or lease.

Subdivision Construction Agreement
An agreement (required by the TWDB's Model Subdivision Rules) between a subdivider and a county or city, though which the subdivider promises to construct, by a chosen operability date, the water and sewer improvements not built at the time of final plat approval. The promise is backed up with a financial guarantee (bond, letter of credit, etc.) to cover the costs of the improvements if they are not constructed by the subdivider by the promised operability date but instead must be completed by the county or city. Appendix 2A to the Model Rules [attached as a graphic to 31 TAC § 364.54(a)] contains a sample form for the subdivision construction agreement.

Texas Administrative Code, the official compilation of rules of Texas state agencies, maintained by the Texas Secretary of State. It can be found on the web by going to, and then clicking (see right side of screen) on "TAC Viewer."

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Texas Water Development Board

Unplatted subdivision
A subdivision for which a plat has not been prepared or has not been recorded with the county clerk's office.