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Council Considers Changes to Short-Term Rental Rules, Fees (Updated)
This is no game: Rules governing the registration of short-term rental properties return to the City Council this week.

Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2:07 p.m.:

The Austin City Council is already considering changes to the rules and fees surrounding the short term rental ordinance that went into effect Oct. 1. As of Friday, the city had issued just 19 licenses. Council wants to know if more people would comply if it were easier and less expensive.

But council member Laura Morrison said in a work session Tuesday morning that it may be too early to make changes at all.

"Responding to the growing pains of getting these registered immediately is just really problematic to me," Morrison says. "Until we get some feel for how things are working under our belts, otherwise, I can assure you there will be another set that we need to be working on soon."

Right now, those applying for a license have to do so in person. They also have to pay a $241 notification fee to send letters to neighbors within 100 feet of the property. The city’s Planning and Development Review Department is recommending that the fee be reduced to $50. That’s because the $241 flat fee is the standard for other city notifications—which require notifying within 500 feet.

"In the short run it seems to me that it's perfectly equitable for us to believe that a 100 foot notification is going to be a small fraction of the cost from your (the PDRD) point of view as a 500 foot notification," Council member Bill Spellman says.

But council member Kathie Tovoexpressed concern with the fee reduction.

“If they feel the fees are too high to make having a short term rental a financially viable option, they shouldn’t do it," Tovo says. "But we need to recover the costs that are appropriate for the city and not just be responding to citizens who would rather pay less.”

The city council is scheduled to take the up the issues again on Thursday during their regular meeting.

Original Story: Monday, Oct. 15, 12:09 p.m.:

New rules requiring short-term rental operators to register with the city have only been in effect for two weeks – but some Austin City Council members are already looking to alter the controversial regulations.

An item at this week’s City Council meeting calls for several tweaks to Austin’s code governing short term rentals: residential rental properties advertised on sites like HomeAway and Airbnb.  

Saying “several issues have been identified that warrant clarification to ensure greater compliance,” the resolution calls for the city manager to craft recommendations that “ensure better compliance and ease of enforcement” for the city staff charged with monitoring rentals.

Council members want to take another look at the fees associated with rental registration. As KUT News previously reported, property owners must pay a $235 licensing fee. But they are also required to pay a $241 notification fee, which is earmarked for notifying neighbors within 100 feet of a rental property. In addition to reviewing the fee schedule for rentals, the measure also calls on the city manager to “consider a different method of notification that … does not cost as much as mail.”

Other areas the resolution’s sponsors want reconsidered include the registration process (by adding an all-online option), giving operators the option to rent out a single room instead of an entire property, and more. The city manager is asked to suggest his changes to rental policy within 120 days.

The resolution is sponsored by council members Bill Spelman, Chris Riley and Mike Martinez. Council members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo opposed the rental regulation when it passed in August, on the grounds it didn’t go far enough – which should make for an interesting discussion this Thursday.

Below, the seven areas the item’s sponsors want reconsidered, as listed in the resolution:

1. Review the fee schedule for short-term rentals;  2. Consider a different method of notification that provides the necessary information to those who need it, is easily administered, and does not cost as much as mail; 3. Consider allowing the public to register online instead of requiring a visit to a city facility; 4. Consider clarifying or eliminating the short-term rental affidavit entirely in favor of a list of expectations and safety requirements; 5. Review the requirements for suspension and revocation of licenses and propose appropriate improvements to the enforcement process; 6. Consider eliminating the requirement that Type 1 short-term rentals must include the whole dwelling unit; and – lease a single room 7. Provide clarity on whether a short-term rental owner must register before one can advertise their property, or whether registration can happen after a reservation has been made. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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