The Common Law

Short-Term Rentals (STRs) – recent questions

"The Common Law" receives lots of questions about short-term rentals (STRs). An STR, often called a vacation rental (think HomeAway or Airbnb) is the rental of a residential unit on a temporary basis for less than 30 consecutive days. Here are answers to several recent questions.

One of my neighbors operates an STR. It's a big house, and there are often loud parties, lots of people, and late nights. Is there anything we can do to stop all the partying?

The city encourages STR complaints be submitted to 311. Noisy guests and late-night parties are some of the biggest concerns for neighbors of STR properties. The Austin ordinance regulating STRs includes specific provisions designed to limit rowdy behavior. For example, weddings, bachelor or bachelorette parties, concerts, sponsored events, or any similar group activities are prohibited at STRs between the hours of 10pm and 7am. City code also prohibits an STR guest from making noise, using sound equipment, or playing a musical instrument audible to an adjacent property owner between 10pm and 7:30am.

I own a rental property and entered into a 12-month lease. Even though the lease specifically prohibited the tenant from using the property for short-term rentals, the tenant (in violation of the lease) created a listing on Airbnb. I've terminated the lease, but the city is threatening me with fines if I don't pull down the ad, and Airbnb is refusing to remove the ad because I didn't create it. How do I fix this mess?

Write Airbnb a formal letter requesting that the unauthorized ad be immediately removed from its website. Provide information proving that you are the owner and that the tenant did not have permission to list the property as an STR. Explain to Airbnb that now that it's on notice that the listing is unauthorized, you intend to include Airbnb in any disciplinary action the city may initiate moving forward. Document all of your conversations with Airbnb. Provide the city with the documentation showing your communications with Airbnb. Explain to the city that you are making every good-faith effort possible to have the unauthorized listing removed. Also explain to the city that you have not and will not rent the property as an STR. And the big lesson for landlords: Be sure you are renting to good folks that will take care of your property and comply with the lease.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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