Ordinance amendments create new type of short-term rental, among other changes

Rules regarding short-term rentals, or STRs, in Austin will be seeing some changes after Austin City Council voted 6-1 on Feb. 28 to amend the ordinance regulating the properties. Councilwoman Kathie Tovo voted against the motion.

"[The resolution] doesn't do anything except set us on a path toward some changes to the code," Councilwoman Laura Morrison said.

Some of the changes to be incorporated into the ordinance include creating a third type of STR that applies to multifamily properties, adding electronic notification to neighborhood associations, changing the fine for operating a STR without licensing to up to $2,000, allowing Type 1 STRs to rent out one room rather than the entire structure, and creating a publicly available map and online database of STRs.

Joel Rasmussen, president of the Austin Rental Alliance, voiced concern to City Council about creating the online database.

"Our concern, really the concern that was voiced by [Austin Police Department], is just that when you have a database of properties that may be available and then you can tie that to a calendar, you're really giving someone the opportunity to go in and really wreak havoc and mischief," Rasmussen said.

Morrison expressed her desire for the city to continue to mail notifications of new STRs to surrounding neighbors rather than switching the notification to email through the neighborhood associations

"I don't think this is a fair way to reliably notify adequately the people that need to know about the short-term rental," Morrison said. "So that's why I think it really makes sense to keep what we have here. Fifty dollars is not a lot of money for someone who's about to be able to make some money from their house."

Type 1 STRs are owner-occupied properties, and Type 2 STRs are not owner-occupied properties. STRs must be rented for periods of less than 30 consecutive days. Licensing under the current ordinance costs the applicant $285—$235 for an annual licensing fee and a $50 notification fee.

An ordinance incorporating the approved changes will come back to council for approval by May.

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