Jersey Village City Council members approved plans to implement regulations for short-term rentals during a meeting Feb. 27 after multiple community members expressed their concerns.
“I live across the street from one, and I'm not happy about it. I have lived in Jersey Village for 45 years, and I've always felt safe and secure, but I don’t anymore, because I never know who is staying in the house across the street from me,” local resident MaryBess Salvaggio Guzzetta said.
City Manager Austin Bleess said there is no regulation banning short-term rentals, so residents can sign up their homes on sites, such as Vrbo and Airbnb.
While there was a discussion about the possibility of raising the $250 short-term rental application fee, Bleess said fees are reasonably inexpensive due to the lack of administrative burden to process short-term rental applications.
The regulations unanimously approved by City Council include implementing insurance requirements for short-term rental hosts as well as the requirement of a host’s presence on-site within an hour in the event of an emergency or police complaint.
“We believe that this ordinance here tonight strikes a balance in protecting the interests of the community while also following case law that currently exists,” Bleess said at the Feb. 27 meeting.
While there is not much that can be done to regulate short-term rentals, Bleess said a separate zoning ordinance “that would limit the closeness of these types of ordinances” was expected to be reviewed by the planning and zoning commission in March.
Mayor Bobby Warren said, although the “easy” solution to the increase of short-term rentals in the Jersey Village area would be to ban them altogether, banning is not an option due to existing case laws.
“There's several pieces of case law out there that refer to deed restrictions and the residential use that clearly state that those deed restrictions are not enforceable when it comes to short-term rentals,” Bleess said. “There's a lot of case laws that limit what we can do.”
Warren said, although there are limits to what can be done about short-term rentals, there are existing ordinances that restrict people from participating in unlawful activities.
"We are focusing on ways that we can solve the problems that exist,” Warren said.
He also encouraged community members to report any suspicious activity to the Jersey Village Police Department, so there can be probable cause on file to give officials the ability to act.