Cities in Texas May No Longer Restrict Building Materials Approved in International Codes

News Date: 
11/20/2019 - 12:30pm

     Most Texas cities have a sort of visual harmony when it comes to specific neighborhoods within the city. This is because most Texas cities have ordinances regulating the construction of commercial buildings and residential homes.  These ordinances are typically aimed at requiring specific construction methods or high-quality building materials.

     New law, however, voids cities ability to restrict building standards.  Under Texas House Bill 2439, all such ordinances were void as of September 1, 2019. In fact, if a city continues to enforce any such ordinance, rule or regulation, they can be sued.

     Governor Abbott signed House Bill 2439 in June of this year hampering aspects of local control. Under the new bill, cities are prohibited from passing or enforcing any type of rules or regulations which:

(1) prohibits or limits, directly or indirectly, the use or installation of a building product or material in the construction, renovation, maintenance, or other alteration of a residential or commercial building if the building product or material is approved for use by a national model code published within the last three code cycles that applies to the construction, renovation, maintenance, or other alteration of the building; or

(2)  establishes a standard for a building product, material, or aesthetic method in construction, renovation, maintenance, or other alteration of a residential or commercial building if the standard is more stringent than a standard for the product, material, or aesthetic method under a national model code published within the last three code cycles that applies to the construction, renovation, maintenance, or other alteration of the building …

     In other words, if a product, building material, or aesthetic method is approved in the International Codes, cities cannot prevent it from being used in their communities. The purpose of the International Codes is not to address the specific needs of different geographical or climate regions, much less the individual needs of particular cities.

      The new law limits a city’s ability to regulate zoning and building requirements. It is worth noting that the bill does have some narrow exceptions related to historical districts; but generally speaking, cities no longer have authority to regulate building materials and aesthetics for both residential and commercial buildings. The new legislation also waives governmental immunity and allows for a city to be sued over new regulations or the enforcement of existing regulations which conflict with the new state law.

     In fact, if the Attorney General successfully sues a city to enforce the new legislation, the city can be forced to pay the AG’s reasonable attorney’s fees related to the suit. Under the new law, cities are left with little choice, but to go through their ordinances and other regulations, line by line to repeal any regulations that conflict with HB 2439. For many cities, this will be an extremely cumbersome process, but the alternative is facing a lawsuit when someone inevitably wants to build that complies with the International Codes but conflicts with the city’s regulations.