DEAR JEFF: Can you tell me if a county has the right to take away the 10-acre exemption for a septic system? Thanks, “Septic Blues”

Dear “Septic Blues”: The short answer is yes. A septic system is exempt from the requirement of a permit under Texas law if it serves a single-family residence, and is on a tract of land 10 acres or larger. The system must also be at least 100 feet from any property line, among other requirements.

However, local permitting authorities specifically have the right to pass more stringent requirements, including the need for a permit. The only exception would be if your system was installed prior to Sept. 1, 1989. If that is the case, you may be grandfathered in, and may not need a permit.

DEAR JEFF: We live in a new development. A large part of our decision to purchase was the presence of deed restrictions. We have a new neighbor who has placed a mobile home in their front yard, in clear violation of the deed restrictions.

Upon contacting the developer, we were advised that the neighbors should get together and send the violators a letter. Doesn’t the developer have responsibility in this area? Also, what is the best way to form a homeowners’ association? Signed, “Green Acres is the Place To Be”

Dear “Green Acres”: The developer does not have responsibility to enforce the deed restrictions once the property has been sold. The neighbors can get together and try to force the offending neighbor to comply, either through sending a letter or, ultimately, filing a lawsuit.

The residents also can form a property owners’ association by forming a petition committee and circulating a petition requiring mandatory membership in the association.

The petition must be signed by at least 60% of the residents to be effective, and all signatures must be obtained within one year of the creation of the petition committee, or a new committee must be formed. If the petition is approved, it is binding on all properties in the subdivision.

Jeffrey Bates is licensed to practice law in the State of Texas, but is not board certified in any area of specialty by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

This column is meant for general information and educational purposes only, and neither this column nor the transmittal of a legal question via email constitutes the creation of an attorney/client relationship between the reader and Jeffrey Bates and/or Southern Newspapers Inc. For specific advice regarding legal matters affecting you, consult an attorney.

To submit a question, send it via email to, or via regular mail to Ask the Lawyer, 101 S. First St., Lufkin 75901, or call 639-2900.