Bill to overturn Austin short-term rental rules clears state Senate


The bill would bar cities from prohibiting such rentals and allow regulations only for health and safety.

Austin’s current ordinance has strict limits on capacity and phases out full-time rental houses by 2022.

A bill that would overturn Austin’s rules governing short-term rental properties passed the Texas Senate on Tuesday, bringing it a step closer to becoming law.

The bill, from Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would bar cities from prohibiting short-term rentals and allow jurisdictions to regulate them only for health and safety purposes.

The fight over short-term rental properties, often listed on sites such as Airbnb or HomeAway, has been contentious in Austin, pitting neighbors complaining of party houses in residential areas against owners who say they provide a valid service. City rules passed last year place strict limits on capacity in such houses and phase out full-time short term rentals altogether by 2022.

Proponents of the Senate bill argue that rules such as Austin’s trample private property rights, while creating a confusing patchwork of regulations across the state.

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Sens. Larry Taylor, R-Galveston, Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, all attempted amendments to Hancock’s bill to exempt their own regions from it. Each argued separately that his region is a unique tourist area — for beach houses, music festivals and historic neighborhoods, respectively — and deserves to have regulations reflect that.

“We would like to have a fit that makes more sense for our community,” Menéndez said.

Those amendments all failed. Hancock said the goal is the standardize rules across the state. He noted that the bill still allows cities to regulate noise and health/safety issues.

“Most of the concerns we got were about noise, and we allow noise limits to stay in place,” he said.

The bill passed the Senate, 21-10. It defines short-term rental as a residential property rented for less than 30 days. It allows cities to register such rentals, but does not allow cities to prohibit them on private property. Homeowners associations, which are not covered by the bill, could still pass restrictions on them.

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The bill will now move to consideration by the Texas House. Tuesday’s Senate vote came as Mayor Steve Adler was testifying before the House Committee on Urban Affairs on a similar short term rental bill. The mayor defended Austin’s ordinance, arguing that full-time rental properties are more like boutique hotels.

In an interview after the hearing he said: “The hope still remains that the Legislature will recognize the difference between the sharing economy’s use of owner-occupied homes to make additional money on the weekends or using a room in the house, versus the investor facilities that are moving into the middle of residential single family homes.”

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