A group of citizens is suing their city council for “carpet bombing the constitutional rights” of short-term rental owners and tenants through an absurd new ordinance. They allege the new regulations violate property rights, going so far as to set a “bedtime” for tenants.
On Friday, the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin and Mayor Steve Adler over regulations passed by the city council regarding short-term rentals (STR’s). In the suit, TPPF and a group of property owners claim the new restrictions violate constitutional protections for property rights, as well as tenants’ rights to privacy, assembly, and freedom of movement.
“The STR Ordinance exceeds the City’s zoning powers. The STR Ordinance prohibits short-term rentals in previously-permitted residential areas, phases out existing, lawfully operating short-term rental properties, restricts the number of people allowed to step foot on any short-term rental property, dictates the movement and association of “assemblies” in short-term rentals, and sets a bedtime for tenants,” the lawsuit states. “Such regulations violate the Texas Constitution and must be struck down.”
Indeed, the new ordinance imposes some very controversial restrictions on property owners as well as short-term renters. One restriction imposes a curfew – essentially a bedtime – that bans tenants from any activity within the property (with the only exception of sleeping) between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
“Section 25-2-795(D) (of the ordinance) prohibits lessees from hosting a group activity, such as a Bible study, past 10:00 p.m., gathering a group of retirees for a bingo night, bringing home a date after dinner, hosting a slumber party for their children, participating in a religious or political gathering, opening Christmas presents with their family before 7:00 a.m., or doing anything else that would interfere with the City’s strict bedtime and nine-hour sleep schedule,” attorneys for the Foundation argue in the petition.
The ordinance also limits the number of people allowed to set foot inside the property — setting a hard cap at ten people. That limit actually decreases to just six people if the group goes outside before 10 p.m. This would mean that a group of ten people who rented a unit in the city of Austin would be prohibited from having a barbecue on the unit’s porch during daytime hours unless the group went outside in shifts.
Perhaps most concerning are the enforcement teeth included in the new regulations. In order to ensure compliance, renters are required to allow city code inspectors into the property whenever they want — regardless of whether or not they have a warrant. Noncompliance with any of the new regulations, or inspections, can be punished with a fine up to $2,000.
Filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the suit lists Ahmad and Marwa Zaatari, Jennifer and Joseph Hebert, Lindsay and Ras Redwine VI, and Tim Klitch as plaintiffs against the City of Austin and Mayor Steve Adler in his official capacity. The suit seeks “a declaration that Ordinance 20160223-A.1 (the “STR Ordinance”) violates the Texas Constitution by infringing upon the rights of private property owners and tenants to operate and enjoy individual residences as short-term rental properties.”
When local governments impose regulations that violate constitutional rights and common sense, citizens must fight back. It’s time that bad government policies are put to bed for good.