AUSTIN (KXAN) — From a 10 p.m. curfew to “unlawful” searches and seizures, a lawsuit has been filed claiming the city of Austin is violating short-term rental owners’ constitutional rights.
The lawsuit is trying to block Austin’s short term rental ordinance. The Texas Public Policy Foundation is taking legal action against the city, claiming it is “illegally” regulating short term rental owners’ properties.
Earlier this year, the City Council decided to stop licensing Type II rentals. These types of rentals are for property owners who do not live at the house and rent it out for less than 30 days at a time. The council said the plan is to ultimately phase out Type II STRs permanently.
The lawsuit states the short term rental ordinance illegally restricts the freedom of assembly, with a cap on the number of people who can stay in a rental at a time. Under the city’s ordinance, no more than 10 people can be inside the rental at once. The ordinance also mandates a curfew for adults, prohibiting activities other than sleep after 10 p.m. It also says there can never be more than six people outside in the yard.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims the ordinance violates home-owners’ protections against unlawful search and seizures by code compliance officers who show up at rentals unannounced. The Director of the Center of Local Governance, James Qunitero, said owners are forced into warrant-less searches, violating numerous constitutional protections.
Those in favor of the ordinance say it would cut down on noise and traffic from rental “party houses.” The city says the ordinance is necessary to combat trash and noise associated with short term rentals.
“The City of Austin has, once again, overstepped the bounds of reason and common sense with bad public policy,” said Quintero. “Austin’s onerous new regulations on short-term rentals are rife with constitutional violations, as the Foundation’s litigation efforts will prove.”
A city spokesperson responded to the lawsuit in a statement Monday afternoon: “The Austin City Council spent many hours working through the significant issues related to short term rentals in the city, in order to best serve all citizens. The city’s lawyers are prepared to defend the ordinance in court.”
In March an ethics complaint was filed against Austin City Council Member Pio Renteria, claiming he never should have voted on short term rental items, given the fact that he has rented out his own home. The complaint filed by the CEO of Turnkey Vacation Rentals said Renteria voted in favor of phasing out Type II short term rentals.
“My biggest concern about Type 2 short-term rentals, those units that are used as mini hotels, 100 percent of the time,” said Council member Kathie Tovo. “They have transformed housing that could be available to Austin families, into hotel rooms.”
The Center for Local Government said the ordinance is threatening to impose a nanny-state. They call for a balance between city regulations and the problems they have with short term rentals.