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State challenges Austin’s short-term rental laws

Texas AG takes aim in appeals court

Austin Texas city hall, 2004 limestone and Corten building with plaza
Texas AG will fight City Hall on short-term rentals.
Dave Wilson

The road to Austin’s regulations on short-term rentals was a rough one, but the city eventually settled on the rules (with, granted, some later revisions). Now Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants to reopen the matter.

According to a Friday press release from his office, he has asked the Court of Appeals for the Third Judicial District in Austin to “reverse a trial court’s judgment and rule that the city of Austin’s stringent ordinance against short-term rentals exceeds the lawful scope of the city’s authority and infringes upon property owners’ fundamental constitutional rights.”

The announcement asserts that the city’s ordinances will bring an end to this “rich history and tradition of freedom” of (presumably unregulated) short-term rentals’ providing temporary housing to everyone from returning war veterans to Hurricane Harvey evacuees since at least the time of Texas’ Independence (1836).

In October 2016, Paxton joined Texas Public Policy Foundation lawsuit against the ordinance the City Council made revisions to local regulations that include a plan to phase out “Type-2” short-term rentals—those in residentially zoned areas that are not operated by a homeowner who lives onsite—by 2022.

Although the city won that battle, Paxton has joined with the same group to file another suit to overturn the local law. While his office’s announcement once again focuses on Type-2 rentals, it asserts that the entire ordinance should be struck down on constitutional grounds because it “[takes] away its citizens’ property right to lease their homes as they see fit.”

According to a Friday story by local NBC affiliate KXAN, the Texas Public Policy Foundation also points to the ordinance’s limits on the number of people who can be outside a short-term rental and curfew requirements as exacerbating the problem.

A city spokesperson told KXAN that it will “continue to defend the ordinance,” noting its victory in the previous case.

State calls on appeals court to take up Austin short-term rental case [KXAN]