City Council eyes changes for short term rental regulation
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Ahead of South by Southwest, a major annual event expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people to town, City Council is changing the new ordinance which regulates short-term rental of homes and apartments.
Austin-based HomeAway carved its niche in a market which has been largely off the radar of local government. The online company links homeowners with renters looking for a short stay.
Co-founder Carl Shepherd says Austin’s restrictions on the rentals need to be thought through.
"Anything that stands as a hurdle between registration and compliance, to me, seems counterproductive," Shepherd said.
City Council approved rules for short-term rentals last August—just in time for the Austin City Limits music festival—but several pieces were missing.
Council is now addressing those issues, which include registering apartment complexes and condos as short-term rentals, and waiting lists for neighborhoods which already have too many short-term rental properties.
Since the ordinance was approved, Council has found that few homeowners have registered their properties.
"The fact of the matter is, frankly, it's been a dismal failure. I think there are only a couple hundred that have registered," Council Member Laura Morrison said.
Last month, the city dropped the registration fee by a couple hundred bucks.
"It's very well documented around the country that the higher the fee, the less the compliance," Shepherd said.
City leaders have found as many as 4,000 short-term rentals on the market this month—about two-and-a-half times as many as last year.
Morrison voted against regulating short-term rentals last August, saying the ordinance would encourage the practice. This time around, she wants to make sure the rules clearly identified.
"This is a short-term rental, here's the contact information for the person in charge. If there were issues, they would know who to go to," Morrison said.
They are changes that Shepherd is fine with, as long as it doesn't make homeowners targets of property crime and allows his business model to grow in Austin.
If approved, failure to not register a short-term rental with the city can cost you up to $2,000 each day.
City Council is expected to vote on the changes in early May. They'd be in place by the time ACL kicks off.