Austin Code will target unlicensed short-term rentals during SXSW

An Austin home listed on the city's 311 complaint list. (KXAN Photo)
An Austin home listed on the city's 311 complaint list. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Expect to see roving teams of Austin Code Department officers in residential neighborhoods next month during the annual South By Southwest festival.

The enforcement teams will target addresses where there have been prior year complaints as well as responding to rowdy short-term rental tenants breaking noise or other ordinances, a new memo shows.

Right now, Austin Code staff are focusing research in the following neighborhoods:

  • Barton Springs
  • Travis Heights
  • Zilker
  • West Austin near Lake Austin
  • Neighborhoods east of I-35

The enforcement plan comes as a relief to a homeowner and mother of two who lives in east Austin. Christina Santos lives on a normally quiet street where, in recent years, a number of lots have been razed and newly-built homes rented out to anyone from festival-goers to bridal and bachelor parties.

“It’s never the same people so they start getting loud, they start drinking, we never have anywhere to park,” lamented Santos this week, pointing to a modern, two-story home on the end of the street where she says a group of bridesmaids descended just a week ago, even temporarily blocking her access to the street. The address of the home is on the city’s 311 listing, showing properties that have been the subject of complaints.

“If it continues like this we don’t want to have to raise our kids here,” Santos said.

In preparation for its SXSW residential operations, the city is also reviewing websites advertising short-term rentals such as Airbnb and HomeAway.

Last year, HomeAway’s CEO told KXAN his company has 400 properties in Austin. The company also instituted a program encouraging renters to be respectful of neighbors in the cities they visit.

Unlicensed properties still exist

It is not difficult to find homeowners who are still tempted to get around Austin’s short term licensing rules. Rob, a longtime Austinite, admits making a little cash by renting his Airstream trailer to people visiting town to attend SXSW and other cultural events. He asked we not use his last name.

“For me it’s not really a business. I have my own business. It’s something that makes it easier for me to be a homeowner [in Central East Austin],” he said.

The city’s latest STR snapshot last September showed 1,350 registered properties with 60 more pending. Of the total, two thirds are some form of owner-occupied.

Code is sending notices of violation to the property owners going against the STR ordinance, and include a remedy to correct the violation. Fines can reach $2,000.

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