This is a topic that is discussed at every meeting with an AOLG designer.   Whether you are installing a new Cedar Fence, Composite Deck, Stone Patio, Play scape, or a Swimming pool in the Austin or surrounding areas you will most likely need an HOA approval, City permit or both.  I once walked into the City of Austin Residential Permitting office to get a permit.  During my conversation with the attendant I ask the simple question.. “So how many deck permits do you issue a week?”  Thinking to myself it must be hundreds.  The attendant simply looked up at me and said.. “Oh a couple, probably 2-3.. And they always seem to be from the same couple of companies.”  So my question is,  when is it absolutely necessary to have a permit and when don’t you need one?  The answer from most cities in our Central Texas area is simple….”You always need a permit.”  I have definitely learned through the years that many slide by the city Permitting officials when it comes to outside projects.  But, there are many factors to consider when sliding by the city because the fact of the matter is that you may save $150-$250 now for the cities fees but it may cost you in the long run.  And as far as neighborhood HOA approval… Always check to make sure if there is a process that they request of you.  I have found them all to be a little different but they can sure make your project miserable if you do not obtain the approval from the beginning.  Typically, the HOA has up to 30 days to approve or deny your submitted plans.  So get organized early in the process if you want to meet the date you are planning “the big party”.  It is not your contractors fault for not completing the project in 1/2 the time if you do not do your part to turn in all information needed in a timely manner.  AOLG designers can help you with both of these stages.  Please feel free to use the comments section below to ask more questions about this topic.