A Guide to City Housing Codes in Texas
This page provides an overview of how to understand and locate the housing codes that may apply in your city. For more information about Texas landlord/tenant repair law generally, see A Tenant’s Guide to Texas Habitability Law.

Remember, just because a housing code requires your landlord to do something doesn't mean you have a right to privately enforce that obligation - it may be only city officials who can. However, referencing relevant provisions of your local city code may help you persuade your landlord to make repairs where they otherwise wouldn't. Additionally, some leases contain provisions in which the landlord promises to comply with applicable housing codes. 

An Overview of Local Housing Codes

In many cases, cities rely on “model” housing codes - most commonly some version of the International Property Maintenance Code.  These are normally published by third party companies, such as the International Code Council. By themselves, model codes aren’t the law of anywhere. It’s only after a city passes an ordinance specifically adopting a model code that the code becomes law.

Normally when a city passes such an ordinance, they adopt the model code “by reference.” A typical adopting ordinance might look something like:

"§ 150.02 CITY CONSTRUCTION CODE.

The following codes, copies of which are on file in the office of the city secretary, are hereby adopted as the city construction code, which is adopted by reference and made a part of this code as if set forth in full herein. The city construction code will apply to all construction within the city, except as otherwise specifically provided in this code.

(A) The following codes published by the International Code Council:
….
(10) International Property Maintenance Code, 2015 edition."

Less commonly, a city will adopt a model code directly - that is, they simply write the content of the model code into their own ordinances without referencing the model code. Likewise, the adopting ordinance may specify that only some parts of the code are adopted. Finally, in some cities - often larger ones - the city doesn’t adopt a model ordinance at all, but rather passes its own idiosyncratic regulations. 

Having adopted a model code, a city will then often pass local amendments to adjust the model code to its particular needs. In some cities, the model code is barely changed at all, but other cities - like Austin - make extensive local amendments.  You always need to check for local amendments to the code to make sure the portions of the model code you’re relying on haven’t been changed.

In most cases, the relevant code in a landlord-tenant context is going to be some version or another of the International Property Maintenance Code - that code specifies the condition in which an already existing and occupied property needs to be maintained. Cities often adopt a variety of other codes that apply to new construction or renovations of existing buildings, but which don’t necessarily apply to the ongoing maintenance of existing structures. Nonetheless, always check to make sure you're looking at the right code.  If you're going through this yourself, look the different codes the city has adopted so you can be sure which one applies in your setting.   

Finally, before running off an attempting to use a city ordinance, make sure you actually live in the city.  Mailing addresses can be misleading - check the city limits on a map.  

Adopting ordinances & model codes for select Texas cities

COMMONLY USED MODEL CODES:


WARNING - Cities change these codes with some regularity and the following tables are not regularly updated. The following information may not be current. Double check to make sure you're looking at the current version of the law.  

AUSTIN AREA:

 City Adopting Ordinance Code Adopted & Notes
Austin
Austin, Tex., Land Development Code, ch. 25-12, art. IX, § 25-12-211 (2013)Adoption by reference of 2012 I.P.M.C. with very extensive local amendments at § 25-12-213.
 Cedar ParkCedar Park, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 3, art. 3.01, § 3.01.001 (2014)Adoption by reference of 2012 I.P.M.C. with few local amendments.
 GeorgetownGeorgetown, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 15.06, § 15.06.010 (2004)Adoption by reference of 2003 I.P.M.C. with a few local amendments.
 Lago VistaLago Vista, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 3, art. III, § 3.106 (2014)Adoption by reference of 2012 I.P.M.C. with local amendments.
 LeanderLeander, Tex., Ordinance 16-047-00 (April 21, 2016)Adoption by reference of 2015 I.P.M.C. with minimal local amendment.
 PflugervillePflugerville, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 150, § 150.02 (2016)Adoption by reference of 2015 I.P.M.C. with minimal local amendment.
Round RockRound Rock, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 10, art. II, § 10-159 (1995)Adoption by reference of 1994 Standard Housing Code.
San MarcosSan Marcos, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 1, art. I, § 14.002 (2015)Adoption by reference of 2015 I.P.M.C. with various local amendments (see § 14.186).

OTHER LARGE CITIES IN TEXAS:

 City Adopting Ordinance Code Adopted & Notes
Houston
Houston, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 10, art. IX, §§ 10-361 to 10-376Direct adoption of idiosyncratic minimum standards ordinance.
San AntonioSan Antonio, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 6, art. IV, § 6-51 (2015)2015 version of I.P.M.C., directly enacted as "San Antonio Property Maintenance Code"; not checked for local amendments.
DallasDallas, Tex., Dallas City Code, ch. 27, art. III, §§ 27-11 to 27-12Direct adoption of idiosyncratic minimum standards ordinance.
 Fort WorthFort Worth, Tex., Fort Worth City Code, ch. 7, art. IV, §§ 7-86 to 7-96Direct adoption of idiosyncratic minimum standards ordinance.
 El PasoEl Paso, Tex., Code of Ordinances ch. 18.50, § 18.50.020Adoption by reference of 2015 I.P.M.C. with minimal local amendment.






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