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Restricting restrictions on AirBnB

I have issues with this.

A legislative proposal that would limit local government control of short-term home rentals in Texas has reawakened a fight over regulations that has already played out in cities across the state.

Senate Bill 451 by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R- North Richland Hills, would prevent Texas cities from banning or restricting short-term rentals. Austin, San Antonio and Fort Worth are among the cities that have enacted such restrictions.

Critics of the bill said it would lower property values and allow Texans to rent houses to people who might host disruptive parties and increase traffic in their neighborhoods.

One of those critics, David King, president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, said houses with no live-in residents are sometimes rented to rowdy visitors. Neighborhood disapproval of these houses led cities like Austin to enact local ordinances that limit their presence.

However, bill proponents say SB 451 would protect homeowners from strict local laws that infringe on property rights while still allowing local regulations that limit or prohibit short-term rentals. Under the bill, local governments could still prohibit short-term renters from housing sex offenders or selling alcohol or illegal drugs to guests.

Through an aide, Hancock declined to comment on his bill. State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, the bill’s co-author, said it shields Texas property owners from governmental overreach.

“Private property rights in Texas are sacred,” she said.

Here’s SB451. I can understand the logic behind wanting to have a statewide framework for short-term rentals, in the same way I can understand it for transportation network companies. There’s a legitimate interest in providing something like a uniform regulatory environment for them. That said, hotels and traditional bed and breakfast places are generally subject to local zoning laws, land use requirements, and deed restrictions. Allowing the AirBnBs of the world to skirt those rules sounds more like an unfair advantage than a level playing field to me. In some cities, the proliferation of AirBnB properties has led to concerns about housing shortages in some neighborhoods. Neighborhood issues and quality of life are the province of local government, and as with many things this session I have concerns about the state stepping in to override their authority.

One more point, which I suppose was outside the scope of this story: Lots of cities levy hotel taxes, for a variety of purposes. AirBnB puts the responsibility for following local codes and collecting such taxes on the hosts. Here’s their advice for Houston hosts – you’re gonna have to do some reading to know what you’re supposed to do. The long and short of it is that the growth of AirBnB means that cities and states have been missing out on potential tax revenue, which in some cases is a substantial amount. To their credit, AirBnB is beginning to work with cities on this. The text of SB451 doesn’t address this at all. If the state wants to mandate a uniform regulatory code for short-term rentals, then the least the state can do is provide a uniform mechanism for collecting hotel occupancy taxes as well.

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4 Comments

  1. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    I don’t think many people who purchase and live in homes in residential neighborhoods want to live next to a what is effectively a hotel, with no management on site. I certainly don’t.

    I think municipalities should have the ability to restrict and regulate that practice. And tax it too.

    To the extent that these companies are wanted by their neighbors, compete fairly with existing companies, pay their fair share of taxes (and that would include not taking a homestead exemption if renting out the property part time, as well as occupancy taxes), then okay…

    But as far as ‘private property rights go’, I’d argue that those who live around an Air BnB property shouldn’t have their ability to enjoy their private property negatively impacted by a nuisance as well. That is also a private property right.

    And a hotel owner, who complies with the local laws, has a private property right for the state to not undercut them by allowing others to compete with them and not have to comply with the same rules, taxes, and regulations.

  2. voter_worker says:

    “Private property rights in Texas are sacred.”-State Senator Dawn Buckingham.

    Except when they’re not: pipelines, highways, reservoirs, asset forfeiture. This is selective reverence for property rights to disguise favoritism for a certain type of corporation.

  3. C. L. says:

    Gosh, if only Houston had zoning…

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Wow. I more or less agree with the previous 3 posts, which is something of a rarity. I wonder, though, if this is something that most HOAs and condo boards already address? It certainly could become a standard HOA and condo item going forward on new builds, but that would leave all the existing housing stock in limbo.

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