Dallas struggles to reconcile landlord concerns in short-term rental market

Several hours of discussion held by Dallas City Council members about how to handle short-term rental properties across the city could soon lead to zoning restrictions and a new registration process.

Dallas employees from Planning and Code Compliance Services have shared recommendations with the Dallas City Council regarding short-term rental rules over the past two months. These rules would affect rooms, entire homes, condominiums and apartments rented by the day or week for less than 30 days, often through online providers, such as Airbnb and Vrbo.

Dallas staff are working with the Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee and the City Plan Commission to refine three options being considered for council approval. All three options define where short-term rentals are allowed to operate.

According to city staff, a formal registration process is being worked out alongside potential zoning limitations. Owners of short-term rentals would be required to register and pay fees on an annual basis. Additionally, the city would inspect all registered properties and notify neighbors of nearby short-term rentals.

Council members are due to vote on a recommended plan in September.

“Hopefully we get to the point where we can get the citizens what they want, which is peace and quiet,” District 4 council member Carolyn King Arnold said during the meeting. a meeting on June 15. “And [they will be] able to live in a neighborhood where the city has identified a specific living area.

Rentals in the neighborhoods

On June 15, board members generally agreed on one option of three on the table to recommend to their supporting committees for refinement.

The so-called “Keep It Simple” option would define short-term rental properties as accommodation use in city code. In doing so, short-term rentals would only be permitted in the same zoning districts where other accommodation uses, such as hotels, may operate.

“It is the option that does not allow any type of short-term rental in the residential [areas]said Julia Ryan, director of urban planning and design, at the June 15 meeting.

Luis Briones, head of public policy for Airbnb, said his company hopes to see a set of rules that both help support the short-term rental industry and don’t stop landlords from renting out their homes.

Briones said Airbnb hosts have the right to rent their property. He called those who focused on creating zoning restrictions for the past three years or so a “vocal minority.” Briones said a “more pragmatic approach” would be to establish a registration process.

“Many of these hosts tell us [that] they’re really dependent on the income they get from offering their space to pay the bills through the end of the month,” Briones said. “We want to make sure everyone who has a chance – who has the ability to host for whatever reason – has the opportunity to continue to do so.”

Dallas resident Olive Talley is among the citywide landlords who are part of the Dallas Neighborhood Coalition. Talley said the community-focused landlord group is advocating for the city to define short-term rentals as lodging use.

Talley said it’s time for the city to officially recognize short-term rentals as lodging use and only allow them where lodging is allowed in Dallas.

“I live a few doors down from a short-term rental, which has done absolute damage to our neighborhood for the past three years,” Talley said. “It has changed hands twice and continues to be a nightmare for adjacent neighbors and with a ripple effect on the rest of the street neighbours.”

Residential Disorders

Talley said members of the Dallas Neighborhood Coalition have complained about noise, parking issues, litter and drugs from short-term rentals.

From October 2020 through May, a total of 112 complaint filings in 69 locations were received regarding short-term rentals across Dallas, according to a presentation given by Andres Espinoza, acting director of code compliance services.

Additionally, Espinoza said the city has had difficulty identifying all short-term rentals in Dallas, adding that there could potentially be around 1,200 unregistered short-term rentals. Thus, Espinoza said more complaints related to short-term rentals may exist due to non-registration.

Airbnb has taken steps to curb unruly behavior at properties booked through its platform. In August 2020, Airbnb announced a temporary ban on all parties and events in all listings.

The company announced on June 28 that the party ban would become permanent, citing a 44% year-over-year global drop in the rate of party reports, said Airbnb spokeswoman Lisa Cohen, in an email.

“We saw even more success in Texas, where there was a 46% year-over-year drop in party reports,” Cohen said.

Dallas homeowner Greg Estell is the vice president of the Old Lake Highlands Neighborhood Association. He said he started learning about short-term rentals in late 2020 when he joined the association’s board.

Estell said the association found that investors were mostly buying affordable residences and then building amenities, such as swimming pools and extra bedrooms, to use the homes as short-term rentals. He said this trend has interfered with his goal of encouraging young families to move into the Old Lake Highlands neighborhood.

“I was getting a lot of phone calls and letters from residents saying, ‘Hey, Greg, can you help us? My wife is upset; children can’t sleep. … We wake up in the morning, and we have bottles of beer [and] we have people who passed out [on] the lawn,” Estell said.

Control the rentals

Dallas does not have a formal check-in process for short-term rentals. Hotel occupancy taxes are being proactively paid for 1,200 active short-term rentals, according to city data.

In an open letter sent to board members on May 4, Briones recommended that Dallas allow Airbnb to collect resort tax from point-of-sale hotels. According to the letter, Airbnb “transparently” collects and remits hotel occupancy taxes on behalf of other cities in Texas.

Owners of short-term rentals would be required to provide a hotel occupancy tax registration number and occupancy certificate, in accordance with the proposed registration process. Requiring owners of short-term rental properties to register with the city will help ensure accountability and strengthen the city’s ability to collect hotel occupancy taxes, city officials say. town.

“We want to ensure that we promote responsible management of [short-term rentals]said Jeremy Reed, acting deputy director of code compliance for the city.

Members of the Dallas Neighborhood Coalition said recognition of short-term rentals in city code should be aligned with how they are taxed.

“The city can’t have it both ways,” Talley said. “The city cannot say [a short-term rental] is a hotel only for collection [hotel occupancy tax] money and not define it as a hotel.”

For about five years, Lisa Sievers rented a pool cabana behind her house in the Forest Hills area near Lakewood on a short-term basis. Sievers said she’s also worked on Dallas task forces related to short-term rental recommendations.

Sievers said she supports a recording program that holds bad actors accountable for breaking the rules. However, she said short-term rentals should be allowed anywhere “as of right”.

“All we need is a decent prescription and proper code enforcement to enforce it, which will be fully paid for by the registry system,” Sievers said.

Sievers said she has earned more than 850 five-star reviews and has met many “wonderful” guests while renting her space.

A check-in program and more code enforcement officers who are fully paid by owners of short-term rentals would help tame cases of crime and disorder, Sievers said.

“Yeah, there are problematic properties there,” she said. “But, like I said, I really believe that a prescription with teeth can solve these problems.”

About Michael C. Lovelace

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