Search our frequently asked questions for helpful information on common topics.
Received a Letter
I received a letter about an Automotive Repair Facility License. What do I do?
Why did I receive this notice?
In order to operate as an Automotive Repair Facility in the City of Houston, you must be licensed in accordance with Chapter 8 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances. To view this ordinance, please visit http://www.municode.com/Library/TX/Houston.
How can I pay?
Please complete the information in your application packet and bring it to:
Houston Permitting Center
Center Auto Dealers Detail, Basement Level
Houston, TX 77002
Is this something that I HAVE to pay?
Yes. You received this notice because you operate as an Automotive Repair Facility and your business resides within the limits of the City of Houston.
What Ordinance does this pertain to?
Chapter 8 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances. http://www.municode.com/Library/TX/Houston.
What is my fee?
For the current license fee, refer to the City Fee Schedule: https://cohweb.houstontx.gov/FIN_FeeSchedule/default.aspx/
When is my fee due?
These applications must be returned with payment within 30 days of the mailing date on this letter.
What other documents do I need before I can get this license?
- A Certificate of Occupancy. If you do not have one, the City of Houston Occupancy office is located at the Houston Permitting Center, 1002 Washington, 1st Floor, Houston, TX 77002 (832-394-8880). Auto Dealers will accept a receipt or the final certificate.
- Present a legal description of your corporation (if applicable) or DBA or Assumed Name certificate – The DBA office is at 201 Caroline, Suite 460, Houston, TX 77002.
- A City of Houston application – This form must be signed and notarized. If you do not have a notary, please do not sign the application until you report to the Auto Dealers Detail office.
- A Deed Restriction and Law Compliance Affidavit – This form must also be signed and notarized. If you do not have a notary, please do not sign the affidavit until you report to the Auto Dealers Detail office.
All of the necessary paperwork listed should be brought to the Houston Permitting Center, 1002 Washington, Auto Dealers Detail, Basement level, Houston, TX 77002 832-394-4800.
My store is not an Automotive Repair Facility.
Please contact our Office at 832-394-4800 Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please be aware that any claim of exemption will be subject to verification by inspection.
I have already paid for this license.
Please contact our Office at 832-394-4800 Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please have proof of your payment (license #) on-hand for reference.
Does my facility need to be inspected?
To obtain a new license, you do not need an inspection; however, your facility is subject to random inspections.
Further information is available online at: http://www.houstontx.gov/police/auto_dealers_detail/
I received a letter about a Fire Alarm Permit. What do I do?
Why did I receive this notice?
Each fire alarm in operation in the City of Houston is mandated by city ordinance to have a permit. It is unlawful for any person to operate, cause to be operated, or allow the operation of an alarm system unless a valid permit issued in accordance with this division is in effect for that system.
If your alarm system can summon the Houston Fire Department automatically, through your alarm system company or through the “fire” panic button, you are required to have a fire alarm permit.
I do not know if my alarm system can summon the Houston Fire Department automatically.
Please contact your alarm service provider with questions about your alarm system’s active capabilities.
How can I pay?
To pay by mail, please complete the information on your invoice and return it to:
City of Houston
P. O. Box 3625
Houston, TX 77253
Make all checks payable to the City of Houston
**We do NOT accept credit card payments through the mail.
If you wish to pay in person, you can pay by check, money order or credit card (MC/V/D/AE) at the Houston Permitting Center at 1002 Washington Avenue 2nd floor, Houston, TX 77002. Please bring your completed application and unsworn declaration with you.
Is this something that I HAVE to pay?
Yes. If your business resides within the limits of the City of Houston, and your alarm system can summon the Houston Fire Department, you must purchase a permit.
Which City of Houston Ordinance requires me to get a permit?
Chapter 11 Sec. 11-12(a) indicates that: It is unlawful for any person to operate…an alarm system unless a valid permit issued…is in effect for that system.
What is my fee?
- The fee for a new fire permit is $111.81 ($83.86 + $27.95 administrative fee).
- Presently, the fee for a renewal permit is $83.86 ($55.91 + $27.95 administrative fee). Renewals must occur 10 days prior to expiration.
- If you do not have a fire alarm permit and a false alarm results in a response by the Houston Fire Department, you will be fined $402.55 for each such occurrence.
When is my fee due?
Applications must be returned with payment within 30 days of the mailing date on this letter.
My alarm system cannot summon the Houston Fire Department automatically, through my alarm system company or through the "fire" panic button.
Please notify us by checking the box on the original letter and mail, fax, or email it back to the Houston Fire Department’s Permitting Office. Please be aware that any claim of exemption will be subject to verification by inspection.
I have already paid my Fire Alarm Permit Fee.
Please notify us by calling: 832.394.8811. Please have proof of your payment on-hand for reference.
If you have any other questions about this notice, please call the Houston Fire Department’s hotline 832-394-8811 or emailing us at [email protected].
Further information is also available online at
Additional Contact Information:
Houston Fire Department
P.O. Box 3625
Houston, TX 77253
Do I need an alarm permit?
All residents and businesses operating, using, causing or allowing the operation or use of a burglar and/or panic alarm system located within the City of Houston are required by the Code of Ordinances, Chapter 11, Article III to obtain a permit for their alarm system.
What happens if I don't get an alarm permit?
It is unlawful for any person to operate or use, cause or allow the operation or use of an alarm system unless a valid alarm permit is in effect for that alarm system. If the Houston Emergency Center (HEC) or the Houston Police Department (HPD), receives an alarm notification from an alarm system that does not have a valid permit, a penalty shall be charged for each alarm notification (whether it is a false alarm or not). The HPD may refuse to respond to an alarm notification from a burglar alarm system that does not have a current and valid alarm permit.
What if I have more than one alarm system?
Each alarm system must have a separate alarm permit. An alarm system may not be operated, used, installed or monitored to protect more than one alarm site.
What if a false alarm was caused by a faulty system?
The permit holder is required to maintain the alarm site in a manner that ensures proper operation or use of the alarm system. The permit holder is also required to ensure that the alarm system is maintained in a manner that will minimize the occurrence of false alarms.
Can I look at the vehicle before I bid?
Auctions are conducted on the premises of the storage facility within a secure area. Access is provided only during the time police officers are present and the auction is in process. Auctions begin immediately upon the officers arrival and the time to inspect vehicles to be auctioned is very short. Vehicle may not be operated and you are limited to a visual inspection.
How long do I have to pick up the vehicle if I win a bid?
The time allotted to pick up the vehicle is largely at the discretion of the storage facility operator where the vehicle is sold. You are expected to take immediate possession, however each storage facility has its own policy. Making repairs or attempting to drive the vehicle from the storage area is also a matter of storage facility policy. You must make your arrangements with the storage facility operator.
What if I'm dissatisfied and want to bring the vehicle back?
The buyer takes the vehicle "as is, where is" and all sales are final.
How do I get my title to the vehicle?
The winning bidder is provided an "Auction Sales Receipt" by the police department. This document must be taken to a county tax office to have the tile transferred into your name. Taxes must be paid as with any other car sales transaction.
What do I do if I lose my paperwork after the sale?
Per the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Enforcement Division, when someone loses an Auction Sales Receipt (ASR), the purchaser will need to obtain a bonded title. Auto Dealers will not re-issue ASR's if lost. Additional information can be found on the DMV website.
Small Water Meters
What is a small meter?
Domestic Small Meters
Small domestic water meters are any size meter that is 2” and smaller that may service a permanent structure that can be for residential, multi-family, commercial, or government use.
Irrigation Small Meters
Small irrigation water meters are any size meter that is 2” and smaller that service a property for the purposes of landscape irrigation or for livestock only.
When do I apply for a Small Water Meter?
You can apply for a small water meter after your building plans have been approved by Utility Review in Taps & Meters. 1” Meter is the minimum size for new residential development.
If you are requesting a larger meter size than the meter you already have existing at your site, then you will apply for a small meter enlargement.
Example: I have a 5/8” meter and I would like to enlarge to a 1” meter.
If you want to move your existing meter to a different location on your lot that is adjacent to the City of Houston right-of way.
If you are sharing a meter with another unit and would like to install your own meter.
Cut, Plug, and Abandon Meter
If you no longer require your meter or you need to remove the meter from your site you will apply for a cut, plug, and abandon of your small water meter.
OCL – Outside of City Limits locations that apply for small meters will need an OCL Plumbing permit from Plumbing Inspection located on the 4th floor of the Houston Permitting Center. The Main phone line for plumbing is 832-394-9000.
How do I apply for a small water meter?
Online Small Meter Application
You can apply online by clicking the online water meter link . You can also email all required documents in one email to [email protected]. Please see procedures to reference the documents needed for your use.
In-Person Submittal at the Houston Permitting Center
You can apply for small meters in person at the Houston Permitting Center by pulling a 700 ticket in the main lobby for the Taps & Meters Group. You will need to have all the required documents outlined in procedures depending on your use.
What happens after Taps & Meters processes your small meter application?
When Taps & Meters approves your application you will be given a WNS (Water New Service) number. The WNS number will be your identifier to your permit for any future updates.
After Taps & Meters approves your small water meter application it is completed by Customer Account Services. Customer Account service is responsible for issuing the invoice for your small water meter permit and setting up new water accounts. If any of the accounts associated with your permit are not in good standing, you will not be able to purchase your permit until the account issues are resolved. If you have a billing issue and Customer Account Service at HPC has given you instruction to call the CAS Call Center, you can reach them at 713-371-1400. If you have a billing issue the CAS Call Center is your point of contact to update existing accounts. We are unable to update existing accounts at the Houston Permitting Center.
Once you pay your invoice the plumber of your choice will receive a work order within 10-15 business days from Customer Account Services, communicating that the inspection can be set up with the Inspections group and your plumber.
Human Trafficking Prevention Training
Why did the City mandate Human Trafficking Training and Certification for hotels?
We know that traffickers often use hotels to facilitate trafficking in persons, be it for sex trafficking, moving a sex trafficking victim from city to city to exploit them or to use sub-contracted labor that is then exploited. We also know that traveling sales crews (groups of teens and/or young adults) that are forced to sell products such as magazines often stay at hotels. In a study conducted by Polaris, the national human trafficking think tank, 75% of sex trafficking victims surveyed reported being at a hotel during the course of their victimization. Furthermore, a January 27, 2020 Houston Chronicle editorial detailed the alleged victimization of 15 and 16-year old girls being sold for sex out of Houston hotels; anyone under the age of 18 is automatically a victim of sex trafficking, no elements of force, fraud or coercion are required.
How will these requirements improve public safety?
As of February 19, 2020, there are approximately 524 hotels within Houston's city limits. Over a span of 4 years, HPD conducted 269 operations at 116 hotels with the hoteliers' cooperation. Presumably, the required training, certification and sign posting will increase the tips reported to law enforcement agencies resulting in more targeted operations that span the city.
How often do I as a hotel owner, operator or manager have to provide training?
Annually. Training certifications must be filed no later than March 31st of each year, the first filing will be due on March 31, 2021.
If as an owner, operator, or manager I recently provided training, do I have to provide this again?
If the training was provided within the last 12 months, you can file the training certificate with the ARA department, if it is an approved training. If the training conducted falls out of this time frame or you do not have attendance logs, you will have to provide training again. If there were changes made to the training after you used it, you will have to repeat the training and provide the associated certification. New employees need to be trained within 30 days of their hire.
Do I have to pay for the training? Is it available in multiple languages?
No, there is a pre-approved and free option available on-line that can be projected to your employees with accompanying attendance sheets titled “Preventing & Responding to Human Trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children - an E-Learning by ECPAT-USA” and found at the following link: https://www.ecpatusa.org/blog/2020/3/27/ecpat-usa-offers-hotel-industry-anti-trafficking-training-for-free. And yes, this training is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Deutsch (German), French (Canadian), French, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese. For a full list of pre-approved trainings, please visit: https://www.houstonpermittingcenter.org/human-trafficking-prevention
Is there live training available? What languages is the live training available in?
Yes, there is free live training available through a partnership the City has with United Against Human Trafficking in English and in Spanish. You can find information on our webpage at https://www.houstonpermittingcenter.org/human-trafficking-prevention
What if I am not sure if the training I used or would like to use meets the parameters?
Do not use the training if it has not been pre-approved. You can email a copy of documentation or the web link to the training to the Mayor’s Office Human Trafficking Division at [email protected] and allow 5 business days for approval. You can also consult a list of pre-approved trainings found here: https://www.houstonpermittingcenter.org/human-traffickingprevention
Can I upload the certification using the same on-line system for the Hotel Occupancy Tax hosted by Houston First?
Unfortunately, no. The ARA Department uses a different database than Houston First.
Where can I upload the certification?
We currently do not have the ability for online submissions, however we are working on this feature and will notify you when the option is available.
Can I mail in the certification form? If so, where do I mail it?
You can mail it to:
City of Houston
Administration & Regulatory Affairs Department
Attn: Business Licensing Division
PO Box 1561
Houston, TX 77251-1561
*Please remember that the postmark must be on or before March 31st of each year.
Where can I get the city mandated sign that is in compliance with the ordinance and Director's Rules?
You can download a sign here: https://www.houstonpermittingcenter.org/human-traffickingprevention. The signage will be available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Urdu and Gujarati. If you would like to have the city translate the sign in additional languages, please submit your request to [email protected] and allow a minimum of 2 weeks for translation for approved requests. Please see Director’s Rules for additional information: https://www.houstonpermittingcenter.org/human-trafficking-prevention
Are there late fees associated with this ordinance?
Yes, there is a $25 late certification processing fee that must be turned in with the late certification.
Can I pay my late fee online?
No, if your certification is late, you must mail in your certification and the fee for processing.
Where do I have to post the sign and how many signs should I post?
Where the employees can clearly see them. There is no set minimum of signs. Please refer to the Director’s Rules for additional information regarding the signage. You can locate the Director’s Rules here: https://www.houstonpermittingcenter.org/human-trafficking-prevention
What records as a hotel owner, operator or manager am I required to keep?
You are required to keep attendance records for all employees that attended the trainings, the date of the training, and the training used. If ARA or HPD request to look at your training records, you will have 72 hours to produce them.
Which city entity will be responsible for enforcing this ordinance and is there a fine for violations?
Both ARA and HPD will enforce this ordinance. Yes, there is a fine for violations. $100 for the first offense and $500.00 for each subsequent violation. Each day of each violation is a separate offense.
When does the ordinance go into effect?
The ordinance took effect immediately upon City Council approval on April 15, 2020. However, hotels will have to file their 1st certification by March 31, 2021.