Are Fort Worth officials about to hit citizens with stricter government regulations and higher taxes? According to a recent city survey—unauthorized and removed from their website after just four days—the answer might be yes.
Last week, the City of Fort Worth posted a survey on their website asking for community feedback about short-term rentals, something the city defines as “vacation rentals that are rented for less than 30 days. The residence may be a furnished townhome, mother-in-law apartment, condominium, detached cabin/cottage or the entire home. Convenient online tools make it easy for hosts to list places for rent.”
According to the website, “the City wants to hear from residents so existing policies can be updated and address issues to protect guests, hosts, owners and the neighboring residences.”
In other words, the city is preparing to make it more difficult and expensive for citizens to host a rental through sites such as Airbnb or VRBO, which will also make it more expensive for potential renters.
Vacation rental websites such as Airbnb and VRBO help provide customers with affordable lodging options and countless homeowners with an opportunity to earn extra income or even utilize their rental as a full-time business.
However, organizations and local governments in Texas have recently tried to restrict, tax, or outright ban the practice of what private citizens can do with their own property. In 2012, a homeowners’ association in San Antonio forbade a man from renting out his own home, a decision the Texas Supreme Court overruled in 2018.
But despite the court ruling to protect homeowners’ rights, city officials in Grapevine, Arlington, and Hurst have still gone after homeowners: not long after the court’s decision, those officials all banned short-term rentals in their cities. In Grapevine, outraged property owners appealed to the courts and won a temporary injunction.
Now, it appears officials in Fort Worth are preparing their own plan.
The city posted their survey on December 26, a time when most residents were on holiday. Fort Worth acknowledged the many benefits of short-term rentals but claimed they “can also impact the community with increased noise, parking and property intrusions, disrespectful renters, and changes in neighborhood character.”
On December 30, Texas Scorecard sent an inquiry to Mayor Betsy Price, City Manager David Cooke, and members of the city council, asking if they are “preparing to limit short-term rentals” and inquiring about “the nature of these limitations or regulations.” Shortly after sending the email, the survey was removed from the website. To date, these emails have received no reply.
After a follow-up inquiry from Texas Scorecard, Fort Worth Deputy Planning Director Dana Burghdoff stated, “[T]he survey was not approved by City management, and was taken down when this was confirmed.”
When asked how such a survey could be published on the city’s website without management’s approval, Burghdoff replied, “[O]ur Communications team thought that the staff member who prepared the survey had obtained management’s approval, but they had not.”
Burghdoff said it is “to be determined” if there will be a future survey.
However, Texas Scorecard has learned that one possible approach the city may consider is imposing the local hotel tax, which is currently set at 9 percent, on short-term rentals.
If officials followed this route, potential customers—disinclined to stay at a hotel and seeking to save money—might find it more affordable to stay outside of Fort Worth rather than within the city limits, thus hurting these Fort Worth small businesses.
While it is unclear what will happen in the near future, Fort Worth residents concerned about this issue can voice their opinions to Mayor Price and the Fort Worth City Council.