Paxton files brief with appeals court over Austin's short-term rental policy

By Robert Davis | Apr 4, 2018

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed an appellant brief regarding a decision from the 53rd Judicial District Court in Travis County that denied a motion for summary judgment and excluded parts of the state's summary judgment evidence in a case against an Austin city ordinance that phases out short-term rental permits by 2022.

The brief was filed with the 3rd Judicial District Court of Appeals in March.

“City governments do not have the authority to trample Texas constitutional rights and protections for property owners and their guests,” Attorney General Paxton said in a press release. “The city of Austin’s short-term rental ordinance is not only bad policy, but also unlawful and must be struck down.”

The city argued that short-term rentals are nuisances. In the brief, Paxton lays out how the city used "studies and sting operations" to exact its data.

Paxton argued that there are "significantly fewer 311 calls and significantly fewer 911 calls than other single-family properties," the brief states.

"Short-term rentals have been around at least since Texas independence and have played important roles in local communities over the years," a press release from Paxton's office states. 

He stated in the brief that the ban only makes sense as "a gift to the hotel industry or Austin residents who seek reduced home prices."

Paxton's brief cited residents such as Rachel Nation, who has continued the tradition started by her grandmother, who provided furnished rentals in Austin on a short-term basis following World War II, to exemplify how important those property types are to the community. For Nation, the short-term rentals were a way to make ends meet and support her family.

"But now, through the current ordinance, the city of Austin seeks to end this rich history and tradition of freedom," the press release states. 

This is not the first time Paxton has intervened in allegedly unconstitutional actions by cities in Texas. In October 2016, he intervened in another short-term rental lawsuit against the city of Austin that was filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

"By taking away its citizens’ property right to lease their homes as they see fit, the city has violated their constitutional rights," the press release states.

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