Austin, Better Together
Austin Code Department Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report
The mission of the Austin Code Department is to build a safer and greater Austin together through code education, collaboration, and enforcement.
Thank you for the opportunity to share about the experiences and growth of the Austin Code department during fiscal year 2022. This year brought the department through the challenges of the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw innovations in the department's training and enforcement tactics, and a continuation of the department’s commitment to excellent service.
As you will see, our work in fiscal year 2022 brought the department in contact with people throughout the entire city. As we work to educate and enforce Austin’s codes and ordinances we do so not alone but in collaboration with our community. Throughout all of our work we recognize that Austin is better, together. We invite you to read and learn more about the department’s work over the past year.
Improving procedures and expanding services
"[Austin Code] feels like a family you can trust."- Andrea Giannotta, short-term rental neighbor
At the Austin Code Department, we strive to find new and better ways to achieve our mission. We know that the needs of our community are constantly evolving and that we need to innovate to meet them. This fiscal year, we responded to stakeholder concerns about moisture, adapted to better assess challenging situations, and explored new technologies to improve our services.
Virtual Reality Training
The City of Austin Code Department developed an innovative Virtual Reality, or VR, training for its code enforcement professionals. The VR course increases productivity, improves memory recall, and reduces errors. By all accounts a success, the City is looking to expand its curriculum to provide more on-the-job virtual training. The VR was also named one of three finalists for the TML Municipal Excellence Awards in Management Innovation.
In September 2021, “Health and Safety Issues Related to Mold in Rental Housing” provided an overview of ACD’s current practices, existing regulations, research on how other jurisdictions address mold concerns, and recommendations to improve the City’s response to mold growth in rental housing. These included the use of moisture meters, which ACD purchased in 2022 to help inspectors better detect the presence of moisture that may contribute to the growth of mold-like substances. Download a copy of the mold resolution.
Threat Assessment Review Team
Last year the Austin Code Department encountered an increased number of code inspection incidents that impacted inspectors' safety. To protect both community members and inspectors, the department assembled a Threat Assessment Team. The goal was to decrease the potential for violent or harmful escalation in daily interactions with customers. As their first task, the Team created a checklist for inspectors to use when conducting preliminary property assessments for safety considerations.
The checklist ensures consistency in review when seeking an administrative search warrant on a property or when preparing any other legal action. It also provides a potential summary to the Threat Assessment Team to analyze the situation for threats. The Team can then provide assessment feedback to the inspector before there is any personal contact at the location. This procedure has now been included in the Code Department policy. The Team will continue to develop ways to identify potential safety concerns, preserving the safety of the customer, inspector, and any third-party individuals associated with a code enforcement legal action on a property.
On Sept. 12, 2022, Austin Code Director José G. Roig was elected to the International Code Council (ICC) Board of Directors. The board is responsible for the Code Council’s strategic direction, while also acting as the voice of the association’s membership. The ICC is the leading global source of model codes and standards and building safety solutions. Code Council codes, standards and solutions are used to ensure safe, affordable and sustainable communities and buildings worldwide.
Strengthening awareness and understanding of local code requirements
"Austin Code has been really great, we're always happy to have them at all of our meetings. They always come early, they stay late, they answer all the neighbor's questions. It's always been a great experience working with them."- Jeremy Hendricks, Secretary of the Windsor Hills Neighborhood Association
The department’s goal is to provide the community with awareness and understanding of code requirements. This knowledge can empower residents not only to avoid enforcement but to improve the safety of the entire community. The department works towards giving community members meaningful education through a variety of educational initiatives and community events.
In fiscal year 2022 Code staff attended 114 community events and neighborhood meetings. These events provided the opportunity for residents to connect with the department and learn about how they can keep their homes and surroundings safe. In addition to in-person activities, virtual and hybrid outreach continued in order to follow safety precautions. To stay connected with Austin Code, request a Code Speaker or give us a call through Code Connect.
Code Connect is our dedicated phone line that gives residents direct access to experienced code inspectors. By calling Code Connect, residents can address general questions about code cases, get resource recommendations, updates on their current cases, and ordinance information. In the fiscal year 2022, the program received a total of 5,812 calls. Give Code Connect a call at (512) 974-CODE (2633).
Austin Code proactively reaches out to residents through educational campaigns each quarter. These campaigns are tailored to give relevant information to empower the community. The campaigns focus on raising awareness through easily accessible messaging informing the community about common code violations, safety hazards, property maintenance, and ordinance requirements. From household management tips to emergency prevention, Austin Code is a resource for Austin residents to live healthier and safer lives.
This year the Austin Code Department attended multiple conferences to share industry knowledge and best practices, including the International Code Council 2022 - Annual Business Meeting (ABM) and the American Association of Code Enforcement (AACE) annual meeting. We also presented to industry groups such as the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR).
In collaboration with Building And Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA), the department presented “Strategic Code Enforcement Depends on Resident Trust” at the Center for Community Progress in Chicago, IL. The collaborative presentation shared real examples of how advocacy groups and the code department work together.
Ensuring safe, healthy and legal uses of Austin lands and properties
"We have a very transparent working relationship and code has been responsive to some of our ideas. Some examples of positive changes Code has or is implementing based on our input include inspection standards for air conditioners [and] moisture meters ..."- Ruby Roa, Austin Women in Housing
The Austin Code Department collaborates with residents, business owners, property managers, community organizations, federal entities, and other city departments to ensure safe, healthy and legal uses of Austin lands and properties.
Strengthening Community Relationships
Austin Code understands that forming and strengthening community relationships is central to everything we do. We aim to foster trust, understanding of local codes and ordinances, voluntary compliance, and confidence in the commitment to our mission. Building a safer and greater Austin is a mission best accomplished together. We work closely with community leaders, neighborhood residents, and civic groups to ensure that we understand current issues and address concerns.
Here you can see messages from some of our community members about their experiences working with Austin Code.
Code inspectors often connect with neighborhood and nonprofit groups. We educate about city code, address specific topics of interest, and invite feedback on current needs. By improving awareness and community partnerships, we can better serve our residents. We welcome you to reach out if you would like a code inspector to join your next meeting or event.
Advocacy & Interest Groups
Austin Code continuously reinforces constructive relationships with our stakeholders, which include community partners such as Austin Women in Housing, Austin Apartment Association, Austin Board of Realtors, and Building and Strengthening Tenant Action (BASTA). We meet proactively to discuss ways to help keep communities safe – including policy suggestions, process improvements, and area needs.
Austin Code extends the opportunity to connect with stakeholders who have shared interests or concerns. One of several monthly stakeholder meetings, our virtual meeting with neighbors of short-term rentals, saw an increase of 27 new members in FY22. We also held on-site outreach events at properties registered in the Repeat Offender Program where residents could meet their code inspector and learn more about codes, inspections, and the program itself.
Collaborating with Property Representatives
The goal of every notice of violation is to achieve voluntary compliance by working with property owners to fix the problem without escalation. Austin Code is proud of our collaborative efforts achieving voluntary compliance in 82.5 percent of single-family homes and 89.5 percent of multi-family homes in FY22. Voluntary compliance is a direct result of our code inspectors’ relationships with property owners, which allow them to provide education about code compliance and the practical steps needed to achieve it. This collaboration is a huge factor in creating a safe community for all Austin residents to enjoy.
Here you can see some examples of properties that voluntarily resolved an issue.
This year, the department worked toward creating improvements to its Repeat Offender Program (ROP). The program is a rental registration program for properties with multiple code violations. After a 2020 audit, the department took to stakeholders to receive feedback on what those changes should be. Since receiving the audit, the department has created an Implementation Plan to systematically consider stakeholder input and create proposed changes to the program. The memorandum can be viewed in English and in Spanish.
Delivering fair, equitable and transparent enforcement of city codes
"The Austin Code Department’s employees treated our concerns with respect, were patient, and were effective. They were professional, providing us the background and code knowledge we needed and kept us informed about the process."- Pamela A. Robers, Ph.D., short-term rental neighbor
When a complaint comes from a community member to Austin 3-1-1, a code inspector investigates the situation. If a code violation is confirmed, the property owner is issued a notice of violation. The written notice tells the property owner which ordinance was violated, what needs to be done to fix the problem, and the timeframe that they have to comply. The vast majority of issued notices end with voluntary compliance, in which the property owner willingly resolves the issue within the stated time frame.
Code Complaints Investigated
Confirmed Violation Cases
Residential Voluntary Compliance Rate
Code Response Time
The Austin Code Department uses an automated system for categorizing complaints, which sets clear expectations for response times to customer concerns. Response times are based on factors like time-sensitivity and risks to life safety.
- 1 Hour - Emergency - Imminent Danger / Life-Safety
- 1 Day - Urgent - High-Risk Hazard / Time Sensitive
- 3 Days - Unsafe - Land Use / Structural
- 4 Days - Maintenance - Property Maintenance / Use
- 5 Days - Nuisance - Other Violations such as Tall Grass and Standing Water
Median Response Time
Percentage Responded within the Time Frame
If a code violation does not get resolved then the final step taken is enforcement through quasi-judicial proceedings. These include Administrative Hearings, the Building and Standards Commission, Municipal Court, and District Court. This fiscal year, 703 cases were escalated to quasi-judicial proceedings.
Administrative hearings are quasi-judicial proceedings overseen by an administrative hearing officer. In FY 2022, the department oversaw 465 cases escalated to administrative hearing. Of the cases that were heard, 95% resulted in a liable outcome.
Building & Standards
The Building and Standards Commission (BSC) is a city agency established to hear cases concerning violations of the City’s housing and dangerous building regulations. Its ten members are appointed by each City Council Member. In FY 2022, the BSC issued 79 orders for repair and 11 orders for demolition.
If a property continues to violate City ordinances, more violations and citations can be issued. Once three citations have liable verdicts the case is escalated to Municipal Court. If Municipal Court finds the owner liable in two situations the case is escalated to District Court.
Your Investment at Work
Making a difference, by the numbers
"Small victories like this [with the Code department] can raise one's spirits and help restore faith in the government."- Mary Ingle of CANPAC
Code by the Numbers, FY22
- Number of code complaints investigated: 28,449
- Number of confirmed code violations: 15,340
- Average number of days until first response: 1.85
- Combined total licenses issued: 2,398
Austin Code Budget
- Investigations and Compliance: $11,730,441
- Case Review, Preparation, and Enforcement: $1,620,513
- Support Services: $7,675,459
- Other Requirements: $6,598,610
- Total in FY22: $27,625,023
Message From The Director
Dear Austin community,
At Austin Code, we know that we as a department, a city, and a community, are always better, together. This past fiscal year 2022 has been an extraordinary year as we continued to persevere through challenges. During times like this our staff shines as they continue to adapt and prioritize customer service and meeting the needs of our community. It is through listening to our community that we learn the most about successes to celebrate and find areas for growth. With every challenge comes the opportunity to serve, grow, and share stories of how we can best thrive as a community. I am proud of the work of our department this year and how we have continued to work together, as a department, and with our stakeholders, City partners, and the community at large. We remain committed to our mission to ensure we address Austinites’ needs and stand by our belief that we are better together. Thank you for your continued support.
– José G. Roig
Director, Austin Code Department