An Onerous Ordinance for Austin’s Short-Term Rentals

Recently, onerous new ride-hailing regulations effectively kicked Uber and Lyft out of Austin, Texas. Now, the city is taking aim at short-term rentals with an extreme new ordinance. James Quintero of the Texas Public Policy Foundation outlined a whole host of these burdensome, intrusive regulations in the Austin American-Statesman.

First, Quintero notes that the ordinance “prohibits outside assemblies of seven or more people between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.” Also, groups larger than ten are banned altogether, irrespective of property size or space.

Even more nitpicky, the new regulation prohibits more than two adults from occupying a single bedroom between 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. As Quintero adds, “adults are also prohibited from engaging in any ‘group activity other than sleeping’ while in their rooms, raising some intriguing questions about the types of behavior that the city is trying to clamp down on.”

To enforce these rules, the city empowered its code enforcers to carry out warrantless searches, “at all reasonable times, of ‘all buildings, dwelling units, guest rooms and premises’ in search of possible code violations,” according to Quintero.

Arguing that these new policies violate the U.S. Constitution and Texas Constitution, the Texas Public Policy Foundation filed suit against Austin to repeal the ordinance. As Quintero writes, “The lawsuit … finds no less than six constitutional rights and protections violated by Austin’s STR ordinance, including: the freedom of movement, the freedom of assembly, the right to privacy, economic liberty, equal protection, and protection from unreasonable search & seizure.”

In order to increase economic opportunity and well-being, governments should be expanding rather than restricting individual freedoms.

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