Renteria faces complaint just before short-term rental vote

Days before the Austin City Council was set to vote on a package of short-term rental regulations, an ethics complaint was filed accusing Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria of failing to renew his permit and pay recent hotel occupancy taxes for his own short-term rental unit.

Renteria told the American-Statesman there is a good reason for that: He hasn’t leased out the back house adjacent to his East Austin home since March 2015.

“I did rent it out while I was doing my home repair in the front house,” Renteria said. “I never did renew my contract. The last time I rented it out was (during) South by Southwest.”

The complaint was filed Thursday by Thomas Clark, the co-founder of the vacation rental management company TurnKey. The complaint argues that it would be a conflict of interest for Renteria to vote on the regulations coming before the council on Tuesday because he receives income from a short-term rental unit.

“He should have been sitting out of these hearings and these votes,” Clark said.

Renteria said he will not recuse himself, noting that he hasn’t leased out the unit since months before the discussion on short-term rentals began last summer.

The city’s online permit database shows Renteria obtained a short-term rental license in April 2014, and it expired a year later. No hotel occupancy taxes were paid by Renteria’s property after March 2015, according to the Texas comptroller’s office.

Clark’s complaint includes a copy of an Airbnb listing of an East Austin cottage with a visitor giving a positive review in October 2015, months after Renteria’s permit expired. But Renteria said the property shown in that listing isn’t his.

The back house on Renteria’s property was a “Type 1” unit, which means the owner of the property lives on site. Much of the debate since last summer over short-term rental units has focused on “Type 2” units, which are leased year-round for less than 30 days at a time without the owner staying on site — giving rise to what some neighbors have described as rowdy party houses in the heart of a neighborhood.

The council enacted a moratorium last November on new Type 2 units in residential areas, and the proposal coming to the council Tuesday includes a provision that would phase out the existing Type 2 units in neighborhoods by 2022. In a post to the council message board Friday, Mayor Steve Adler said he will propose removing that controversial provision.

Other regulations would set a minimum distance between short-term rental properties, impose occupancy limits, prohibit advertising without a license and give code officials the authority to inspect properties, levy fines and suspend licenses for repeat violations.

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