Grapevine’s short-term rental issue to go to trial in April; plaintiffs granted temporary relief

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Editor’s Note: This story has been updated at 4:51 p.m., Nov. 8, to include a statement from the city.

Judge Mike Wallach of the 348th Tarrant County District Court granted Grapevine property owners’ request for a temporary injunction Nov. 7, preventing the city of Grapevine from enforcing a ban on short-term rentals.

A trial to determine whether the city was within its rights to prohibit Grapevine residents renting out their properties as short-term rentals on websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway is set for April 15, according to court documents. The injunction applies specifically to the plaintiffs.

However, the city may be open to stopping the ban altogether until the trial’s final judgment, said J. Patrick Sutton, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

When asked if the injunction will be applied city-wide, City Attorney Matthew Boyle responded in an emailed statement saying the city remains hopeful that responsible, law-abiding owners will avoid any consideration of enforcement options through voluntary compliance.

Grapevine property owners who opposed the city’s ban of STRs served the city a lawsuit Oct. 18, four days before the re-enforcement of the city’s decades-old ordinance was set to take effect Oct. 22, a city news release said.

“Plaintiffs seek a ruling that their illegal activity should be grandfathered for a period to allow them to recoup their investments in spite of the fact that they admit to having collected well more than half a million dollars in revenue from their ‘money-making venture,’” Boyle stated in an email dated Oct. 24.

Judge Kimberly Fitzpatrick granted a restraining order lasting 14 days to prevent the city from enforcing the ban. With this, the plaintiffs requested a temporary injunction to prevent the city from enforcing its ban after the restraining order expires.

The city maintains that STRs have never been listed as a permitted use under the city’s zoning ordinance, according to court documents filed with Tarrant County. Documents also state that because the zoning ordinance is a criminal statute, the court should not bar the city’s enforcement of it.

The plaintiffs’ case also does not meet the basic legal requirements to warrant a temporary injunction, Boyle said during the hearing.

Plaintiffs and one former Grapevine resident testified that they consulted with city employees before they began STR operations and were told there were no permits or regulations related to STRs. The witnesses said they invested thousands of dollars in renovations to make these homes appealing to potential renters and would suffer substantial monetary and investment losses if the ban is enforced.

Refuting the claim the city has always banned STRs, the plaintiff’s attorney Graig Fancher said city ordinances failed to explicitly define STRs, differentiating them from long-term rentals, until 2018.

“At its core, the short-term rental is the renting or leasing of residential property,” Fancher said during the hearing. “The Texas Supreme Court since the 1800s has stated that leasing is a basic property right, and so if leasing is a basic property right the city has to show how it is not permitting leasing.”

Grapevine officials remain committed to protecting residential neighborhoods from the challenges associated with illegal, short-term rentals, said Mona Burk, public information officer for the city, in an email.

“The city appreciates the prompt trial setting for this case and looks forward to the opportunity to defend its efforts to ensure the peaceful enjoyment of the homes of Grapevine residents,” Burk said in the email.

Linda Morrissey, one of the plaintiffs, said she feels the decision to grant the temporary injunction is fair.

“We didn’t wish any harm to the city of Grapevine,” Morrissey said. “We just wanted to prevent them from bringing harm to us. … We deserve the right to use our homes as we wish. We aren’t hurting anyone.”

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Renee Yan
Renee Yan graduated May 2017 from the University of Texas in Arlington with a degree in journalism, joining Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in July.
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