FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What law regulates the County authority to require building permits?
The County receives its authority to require certain types of permits from the TEXAS LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE, TITLE 7, CHAPTER 233 - SUBCHAPTER C, 233.061- 233.067
When is a building permit required in the unincorporated areas of the county?
A building permit is required in the unincorporated areas of the county any time an individual, company, corporation, or group of individuals acting as an organization constructs, builds, or erects a new building to be used for commercial, public accessible, or multi-family residential purposes; OR a pre-built building is located on a piece of property; OR anytime an existing building undergoes a "substantial improvement".
Who has to get a building permit?
The owner of the building is ultimately responsible for obtaining a building permit. However any agent who has the owners' authorization, and is acting on behalf of the owner may apply for the building permit.
What is a "substantial improvement"?
Bexar County utilizes two definitions to determine what a substantial improvement is and these are found in the TEXAS LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE, TITLE 7, CHAPTER 233 - SUBCHAPTER C, 233.0615.
What is a commercial establishment (building)?
The state law does not provide a definition of a commercial establishment (building). Therefore, the definition that is used by the Fire Marshal's Office is defined in the Commissioner's Court Order authorizing the Adoption and Enforcement of the Fire Code. "Commercial Establishment" means a place where goods and commodities or services are provided, displayed, exchanged, sold or bought.
What is a public accessible building?
The state law does not provide a definition of a public accessible (public) building. Therefore, the definition that is used by the Fire Marshal's Office is defined in the County Commissioners Court Order authorizing the Adoption and Enforcement of the Fire Code. A "Public Building" means a place in which the possession and/or use, as well as the property in it, gives members of the public free access or use and includes buildings in which the public may enter for any purpose, including where an entry fee is charged; or otherwise classified as an occupiable space'.
What is a multi-family residential building?
A multi-family residential building is defined in TEXAS LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE, TITLE 7, CHAPTER 233 - SUBCHAPTER C, 233.062(a)(3).
Additionally, the Bexar County Commissioners Court Order authorizing the Adoption and Enforcement of the Fire Code provides that a "Multi-Family Dwelling" means any residential structure consisting of four (4) or more residential dwelling units. A dwelling unit is any single unit providing complete, independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.
What do I have to do to get a building permit?
In order to obtain a building permit, you must submit to the Bexar County Fire Marshal's Office two (2) sets of architectural plans, a completed permit application, and permit fee as established by the Bexar County Commissioners Court. Architectural plans must, at minimum, include a site plan showing the building and distances to the property lines; a floor plan showing all rooms, the intended room use, doors, and room size; building elevations for all four sides; electrical layout; and heating, ventilation, and air/conditioning layout (HVAC).
What other permits must be obtained?
After a plan review has been completed, the building permit will indicate any additional permits or work authorizations that will be required. These may include work authorizations or fire protection system permits. Obtaining work authorizations and fire protection system permits are the responsibility of the party or contractor that will perform the particular work.
How long does it take to obtain a building permit?
As established in TEXAS LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE, TITLE 7, CHAPTER 233 - SUBCHAPTER C, 233.063 the County has 30 days to review and issue or deny a building permit. All plan reviews are performed on a first-come-first-served basis, and every effort is made to issue the permit as soon as possible. The more accurate and detailed plans the submitted plans are, the quicker the plan review can be completed.
How much does a building permit cost?
The cost of a building permit is based on an escalating fee schedule approved by the Commissioners Court. The permit fee also includes the cost of all required inspections and the issuance of the final Certificate of Occupancy (Compliance).
In order to obtain the exact cost of the permit, it is best to contact the Fire Code Section of the Fire Marshal's Office with the total construction cost of the building to receive an accurate permit fee. The minimum cost of construction will be calculated at $25.00 per square foot. All permit fees submitted to the Fire Marshal's Office are NON-REFUNDABLE. Permit fees may be submitted in cash, check, or money order. If payment is in cash, the exact amount of the fee is required.
How long is a building permit valid for?
A building permit is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance and construction must start within this timeline. If construction does not start within the 180 days, a permit renewal will be considered by the Fire Marshal on a case-by-case basis.
- Renewal of permits that have not expired – these permits may be renewed by paying the permit and inspection fee only for each permit issued.
- Renewal of permits that have expired – these permits are no longer valid, and the project must be resubmitted as a new project, subject to a new play review and all applicable fees will be required.
What are the Codes used by Bexar County?
Bexar County utilizes and references the 2009 International Code Series Series and amendments found in the Bexar County Rules for the Enforcement of the International Fire Code and International Building Codes. In additional, references may be made to the National Fire Protection Association standards and other pertinent state laws.
What local amendments are enforced by BexarCounty?
Bexar County does not enforce City of San Antonio locally developed amendments; however, the County does have local Rules for the Enforcement of the International Fire Code and International Building Code. These local regulations should be consulted during the design of any construction related project.
What inspections are required for my building?
At a minimum, the following inspections are required: structural frame (for any required fire resistance and/or fire separation requirements), electrical rough-in; HVAC rough-in; and final inspection for issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy (Compliance). Any Fire Marshal's Office Inspector or Investigator may conduct an inspection at any time to verify construction documents are on-site. Failure to produce construction documents/permits upon request may result in any of the penalties listed below: penalty assessment, and/or revocation of the permit, and/or refusal to allow final utility connections, and/or denial of the Certificate of Occupancy (Compliance).
Who inspects my building project?
Fire Inspectors or Fire Investigators from the Bexar County Fire Marshal's Office will perform the inspection of your building project. These officials will identify any building construction related problems that need correction as well as look for any fire and life safety issues that may need corrections.
I'm building a private residence, what permits are required?
The County may only conduct a plan review, issue a residential building permit, and issue a subsequent Certificate of Occupancy (Compliance) if the residential plans are submitted for permitting on a voluntary basis.
There are two situations where the owner may voluntarily seek a residential building permit: (1) a homeowners association requires the building to be permitted through the Fire Marshal's Office, or (2) a lending institution will required a Certificate of Occupancy (Compliance) from the Authority Having Jurisdiction in order to finalize the loan process.
In any situation, the residential owner or residential contractor must meet the requirements of the Texas Residential Construction Commission.
How do I get a Certificate of Occupancy for my home?
As indicated in item #17, unless a residential building permit was issued on a voluntary basis, the County does not have legal authority to regulate residential construction, conduct residential construction inspections, or issue a residential Certificate of Occupancy. In Bexar County, in the unincorporated areas of the County, most residential construction has not been constructed under a residential permit, and therefore a residential Certificate of Occupancy does not exist.
Additionally, the County will not conduct a residential construction inspection once the building has been completed due to the amount of damage that would be required in order to inspect structural elements, electrical wiring, heating systems, and gas lines (if installed).
If you need additional documentation concerning this issue, please click here for additional information.
I'm building in the San Antonio ETJ, what other requirements must I comply with?
Under State Law, municipalities may enforce certain requirements in unincorporated areas of a county provided those areas fall within the municipalities Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction. In all cases, in addition to meeting all County construction requirements, you should contact City of San Antonio Planning & Development Services Department to verify what city requirements may be enforced on your project.
I'm building in the Helotes ETJ, what other requirements must I comply with?
Under State Law, municipalities may enforce certain requirements in unincorporated areas of a county provided those areas fall within the municipalities Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction. In all cases, in addition to meeting all County construction requirements, you should contact the City of Helotes Development Services to verify what city requirements may be enforced on your project.
How is my property zoned in the County?
In the unincorporated areas of the County (any area not within a municipal city limits) there are no zoning regulations. However, there may be other development regulations that apply to the property. For example, an On-Site Sewer System permit may be required if there is no developed sewer system available. If the property to be constructed on has not been platted, BCFMO must have an Authorization to Issue Permit form completed by Public Works and returned with the permit application. Before any construction work is begun, you must contact Bexar County Infrastructure Services to check on any other regulations that may apply to the property. Makes sure to look at their FAQs!