Ken Paxton

Frequently Asked Questions - Residents of Border-Area (Subchapter B) Counties

Who pays for the water meter and septic system on my lot?

In border-area counties, the person who subdivides the land into lots is usually responsible for providing water and sewer facilities to residential lots. This requirement includes paying for water meters and all other connection charges, and installing septic systems wherever they are used. Of course, the subdivider can recover these costs in the sales price for the lots.

Where do I check to see if this lot I am about to buy is officially platted?

The real estate agent may have this information. Also, if you have information as to ownership or location, the county appraisal district may be able to tell you. City and county planning offices usually have some records as to platted subdivisions. The official records of subdivision plats are in the county clerk's office at the courthouse.

Where do I go to seek a certificate to obtain utility service?

You may first want to review the checklists to see whether you satisfy one of the sets of conditions making your lot eligible for utility service.

If the land is outside city limits, go to the county planning department or county judge's office. Certificates are actually issued upon vote of the county commissioners court.

If land is inside a city or its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), check with the city planning department or the city secretary's office. Depending upon the circumstances, the certificate is issued by the planning commission (or similar body), the city council, or a designated city official.

How can I find out whether property is inside a city's limits or its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ)?

By statute (Local Govt. Code § 41.001) each city in Texas must maintain an up-to-date map showing its boundaries and extraterritorial jurisdiction. A copy must be kept in the office of the city secretary or city clerk. A city engineer must also have a copy, and city and county planning departments usually have such information.

My road is not paved. Whom do I talk to about this?

Nowadays subdividers are responsible for providing roads built to city and county standards. However, for land in older subdivisions, you will need to talk to the local government. If you are inside the city, talk to the city engineer or city council. If you are in the county, talk to the county road and bridge department, your county commissioner, or the county judge.

May I legally sell my lot?

f you created the lot, you must typically have it platted before you may sell it. Also, for a lot outside city limits, even a platted lot, if the lot lacks water and sewer service (or financial guarantees for them), you may not sell it unless (1) you reside on it and (2) you are not the subdivider or the subdivider's agent.

May I build or move an additional home onto my lot?

If you plan to add a second dwelling to your lot and rent or lease it, then you will be subdividing your land, and you must first obtain plat approval from the city and/or the county (depending upon your location).

Check the plat for your subdivision as recorded with the county clerk. If your lot is in a subdivision platted in the past decade or so, then there is probably a restriction on the plat that there be no more than one single-family detached dwelling per lot. This restriction is required under the Model Subdivision Rules, which cities and counties began adopting in 1990. Attached dwellings are not prohibited by this plat restriction.

Also, even in older subdivisions not subject to the Model Rules, there may be some restriction on the plat or in your deed having to do with the number or type of dwellings.

Finally, if you are inside city limits, then the city's zoning ordinance may prohibit multiple dwellings on a lot.

May I divide my lot and sell a portion of it?

To divide your lot and sell off a portion of it, you must usually first obtain approval of a subdivision plat by the county (if the land is outside city limits) and the city (if the land is in the city or its extraterritorial jurisdiction). When platting a residential lot, you will generally be required to provide water and sewer services (or a financial guarantee for them).

May I sell to my child a portion of my lot?

Yes, but you will probably have to obtain approval of a plat that meets the Model Subdivision Rules.

For a lot outside city limits, platting is not required by Subchapter B of Chapter 232 if the lot is split off and given to a close family member. However, the Model Rules contain no similar exception and require platting whenever two or more residential lots of five acres or less are created. Splitting off part of your lot results in the creation of two new lots - the part split off, and the remaining part. A plat under the Model Rules must describe and provide for water and sewer service for the lots.

If you are in a city or a city's extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), check with the city planning department as to whether there is an exception to the city's usual platting rules for a transaction involving a family member, sometimes called a "family partition." Again, though, if the city has adopted the Model Rules, a plat is required.