Short-term rentals cause concern among some city staffers in Travis County

Short-term rentals cause concern among some city staffers in Travis CountyWebsites such as Airbnb and Austin-based HomeAway that facilitate homeowners renting out their houses for less than 30 days at a time may conflict with local cities’ regulations.


Austin City Council debated the future of the city’s short-term rental, or STR, policy in September, proposing several new regulations and temporarily ceasing to issue licenses for certain types of rentals.


Rollingwood Mayor Thom Farrell said he had been following the debate over STRs and is glad his city banned STRs in September 2010.


“We had a couple of houses that were doing short-term rentals, and the neighbors complained,” he said. “The council took it up and decided we would not have [STRs].”


Farrell said the city may reconsider its position in the future if residents wanted to rent their house to short-term visitors. However, he said he believes there will always be more people who do not want rentals in the city than those who do want rentals.


“It’s becoming such a problematic deal within the neighborhoods that have it that I’m guessing that’s not going to be something Rollingwood is going to change,” Farrell said.


To enforce the restrictions, he said police officers are familiar with the families that live in the area so they are able to spot illegal rental activity. Neighbors also call and report STRs, he said.


Besides monetary benefit to the homeowner, Farrell said he does not see any benefit to the city in allowing STRs. He said there was a proposal a few years ago to study whether hotel taxes generated by STRs would benefit Rollingwood, but because of regulations on how hotel taxes can be used, the city decided not to conduct the study.


“There is always another side to it, though,” Farrell said. “And that other side is that people should be able to maximize the use of their property. But they have to be able to do that without disturbing neighbors. You should be able to have quiet enjoyment of your property.”



Lakeway


Short-term rentals cause concern among some city staffers in Travis CountyThe city of Lakeway’s current ordinance was passed in August 2011 and requires STR owners to have a basic license to rent out their house.


Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones said there are about 80 permitted STRs in the city, but it is difficult to know the exact number of operating STRs.


He said city staff has recently received various complaints regarding short-term rental usage and the city may create stricter licensing requirements.


“My best guess is that [by] November we’ll have a draft [ordinance] for the council to look at,” Jones said. “Our ordinance will probably emulate [Austin’s] a lot.”



Bee Cave and West Lake Hills


Although Bee Cave and West Lake Hills do not currently regulate STRs, West Lake Hills City Council discussed the issue Aug. 12.


At the meeting, resident Paul Darcy said he and his family travel frequently and he rents his house out when it would otherwise be empty.


“We love our house and are very protective of it,” Darcy said. “The last people [who rented the house were] a group of five women who were having a 30-year high school reunion.”


Other renters of the Darcy home included grandparents who were showing The University of Texas to their grandchildren, he said.


The rental income is very important to the Darcy family, he said.


“Taking a position like Rollingwood’s would have a devastating effect on me and my family,” Darcy said.


West Lake Hills Mayor Dave Claunch said parties and noise complaints are not isolated to renters, but are often caused by residents as well. He said he is opposed to outlawing STRs.


“In general I’m against regulating this stuff at all,” Claunch said. “I believe the market forces and the dynamics we have between neighbors will fix the problem.”


Council Member Stan Graham agreed with Claunch.


“You don’t want to over-regulate,” he said. “If there’s a complaint, the owner has to address it. If there’s enough complaints, it won’t be worth it for the owner [to continue renting].”


Council Members Linda Anthony expressed concern that with STRs, West Lake Hills would become “a transient neighborhood where people are coming in and out all the time.”



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