By Michael Theis –As the Austin City Council is set to consider a series of changes to the city’s short-term rental ordinance, representatives from Austin-based vacation rental company HomeAway have raised concerns that the proposed regulations could drive short-term rental activity underground.
Earlier this week, the city’s Planning and Neighborhoods Committee forwarded six proposed changes backed by Austin City Councilwoman Sheri Gallo. Those changes are scheduled to be considered by City Council at its Thursday meeting. Gallo’s office has said the rules are meant to crack down on operators whose rental activity has caused neighborhood disruptions.
The rules up for consideration include:
- Requirements that rental owners maintain a guest registry
- A cap on rental occupancy to six adults
- Adding a method to revoke the licenses of repeat offenders of the city’s short-term rental rules
- A requirement that short-term rentals abide by the city’s noise requirements
- A requirement that short-term rental managers list their rental license number when marketing the property
- Giving more power to city code enforcement to revoke licenses when false information has been provided on a short-term rental license application
Matt Curtis, HomeAway’s director of government relations, balks at many of the rules. He argues that the number of problem operators in the Austin area are very small, perhaps no more than a dozen, and that the city could effectively use existing regulations to deal with them rather than institute a sweeping overhaul of thee regulations governing a local industry that the Austin Rental Alliance estimates generated $234.1 million in economic activity and that employs 2,500 workers.
“HomeAway supports policies that are fair and effective and allow the activity of short-term rental to operate above the radar rather than go underground,” Curtis told Austin Business Journal. “What we are hearing from property managers and owners is that the extra burden will be difficult for people to comply with, hard to understand, and could drive the activity underground.”
Curtis points out that Austin’s short-term rental community, unlike in other peer cities, has one of the highest levels of compliance with local short-term rental ordinances in the nation, with an estimated 72 percent of short-term rental owners and managers in the city operating above board. In Portland, only 10 percent of short-term rental owners are in compliance with relevant local laws, numbers echoed in a recent study from the Alliance.
Curtis also objects to the requirements that short-term rental owners and managers maintain a list of their guests.
“Some of the property owners and managers have said it feels pretty creepy to maintain a list of the people they are renting to and to have to potentially be able to hand that list over to the government,” Curtis objected.