Short-Term Rental Conflicts Reveal Nature of Local Control Fight

The Arizona city of Sedona is blazing a trail, but not one for which they should be proud.

O.H. Skinner, the state’s Government Accountability and Special Litigation Chief, is warning Sedona that failure to stop licensing short-term vacation rentals will result in a loss of state aid.

The issue stems from a 2016 state law that preempted Sedona’s 1995 ordinance banning people from renting out their homes for less than 30 days. The city’s response to that preemption was to repeal the ban and pass new licensing and fees.

A state representative then asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate whether the city’s new rules violate state law. Skinner believes the city is overstepping the exemptions built in by state lawmakers regarding health & safety and zoning.

In Texas, State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R –Fort Worth) filed similar legislation last session that would have prevented cities from banning short-term rentals. The bill was partially a response to new ordinances across the state like the one enacted by the City of Austin.

While Hancock’s bill didn’t pass, the state’s Court of Appeals for the Third District struck a blow to Austin’s ordinance last August, holding that use as a rental did not transform that use into a commercial one.

One of the most stringent regulatory schemes in the nation, Austin’s rules ban certain types of rentals throughout most of the city and prohibit more than six adults from being present on short-term rental property at any one time. The rules also impose a 10 p.m. “bedtime,” and requires owners and guests to submit to warrantless searches “at any reasonable time.”

A separate constitutional challenge to that ordinance is pending in the same court.

While one Austin City Council member publicly characterized the regulations as “anti-nuisance” provisions, “the city has conceded that the challenged regulations do not turn on public nuisances like noise, parking, or trash, or the availability of housing. The city’s own studies showed that short-term rentals generate fewer public nuisance complaints than long-term rentals,” writes Robert Hennecke and Chance Weldon of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Additionally, Austin already enforces regulations prohibiting loud parties, excessive street parking, over occupancy, and trash.

As large, liberally dominated cities continue to push the boundaries of local control, the state must continue to intervene to protect the liberty and property interests of Texans across the state.

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Salvador Ayala

Sal is the Budget & Policy Analyst for Empower Texans. He has been a committed proponent of American founding principles since 2007, shortly after receiving his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Before joining Empower Texans, he served as legislative director for Rep. Matt Rinaldi in the Texas house and was a delegate to the 2012 RNC. In his leisure, Sal enjoys live music, digital photography, guitar, bicycling, trivia, and documentary films.

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