© 2023 88.9 KETR
Public Radio for Northeast Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cities in North Texas struggle with short-term rental issue as legal challenges loom

 Plano police made arrests related to a sex-trafficking ring at a short-term rental at Las Palmas Lane in September.
Jacob Wells
Plano police made arrests related to a sex-trafficking ring at a short-term rental at Las Palmas Lane in September.

It's the issue that won't go away.

Meeting after meeting, city council members across North Texas have listened to hours of passionate testimony about short-term rentals.

And it's an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Dallas just passed a ban on short-term rentals in residential zoning areas a few minutes before midnight Wednesday.

That’s a ban several resident Plano residents want their city to enact — but the city council has yet to do so. The council did pass a temporary ban on new short-term rentals that will last a year last month. But unlike Dallas, there isn’t a system in place to register short-term rentals with the city. The vote on that ordinance got tabled until the end of June.

Cities don’t have a state law to turn to for guidance when writing their short-term rental ordinances. Several bills on short-term rentals were proposed during the recent legislative session. Most of them died before making it out of committee.

The preemption bill signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday could have an impact. It broadly bans cities and counties from going beyond what the state specifically regulates on several issues — including property.

The bill’s sponsor has said it won’t impact short-term rentals, but opponents have their doubts. That means Dallas could be sued over its short-term rental ordinance.

“Keep it simple”

Proponents call this the KISS option — or “keep it simple solution.”

The new ordinance was expanded to allow STRs in multi-family zoned districts and must have include off-street parking, in a wave of last-minute motions to amend what proponent are calling the “Keep It Simple Solution.”

That policy was also accompanied by a registration ordinance aimed at regulating the STRs currently operating in multi-family areas.

The decision will make the vast majority of currently operating STRs across the city in violation of the ordinance. Now, the city must begin the process of enforcement.

The vote comes after a years-long battle between residents, STR owners and city council members. One group of residents opposed to the properties in residential communities say they’ve been terrorized by wild parties, crime and armed tenants at STRs.

Those that own the properties say they should not be penalized for the actions of what they say, are a small group of bad actors.  

Both the registration and zoning ordinance will become effective immediately, but enforcement of both will being in six months.

Council members and those in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting are celebrating the closure of a contentious issue.

“I really want to thank all of the residents…who have made my mission very clear,” District 14 Council Member Paul Ridley said at the end of the meeting.

Residents have called the KISS solution as the only viable option to deal with what they call chaotic house parties.

Jack Kocks lives in District 11. He says a rental in his neighborhood was the scene of at least one party that turned into chaos.

“The event, posted on social media, drew hundreds of underaged teens that converged on our neighborhood,” Kocks said during a June council meeting. “They brought with them guns, drugs and alcohol.”

Kocks said before the night was over, one person had been shot and yards were littered with “beer bottles and shell casings.”

A temporary solution

There was also a shooting outside a party at a short-term rental in Plano’s Oakwood in Plano’s Oakwood Glen neighborhood in late February. No injuries were reported, but a bullet did go through the window of a three-year-old’s playroom in the house next door.

The child’s mother, Zoey Sanchez Reveal, spoke at multiple city council meetings after the shooting, calling for a ban on short-term rentals in residential areas.

My daughter asks me almost daily, Are the bad guys coming back?” Sanchez Reveal said at a March city council meeting.

It took months for the Plano city council to act. The council passed a temporary ban on new short-term rentals at a joint meeting with the Planning and Zoning Commissionlast month that expires June 2024.

The ban doesn’t apply to short-term rentals that already existed. Those can keep operating. And the city doesn’t have a mechanism yet to determine which short-term rentals are new. The city council tabled the vote on the ordinance to create a registration process for short-term rentals until the end of June.

No precedent

The majority of people in Plano want the city to require short-term rental registration according to a survey sponsored by the city. Several respondents called for a total ban, something the survey didn’t ask about.

“Ban STRs city wide. Do not study and drag a decision out for a year,” one response read. “The negative effect on my neighborhood is here NOW. Do not attempt to delegate the regulations and decisions to HOAs as this survey suggest in the way it is written. City council should do its job and ban all strs.”

But Plano city attorney Paige Mims has said that same argument hasn’t held up in court for other cities. Grapevine is being sued over its short-term rental ban. The Texas Supreme Court is expected to hear the case. Arlington was also sued over its short-term rental ordinance that limited their location to the city’s entertainment district. An appeals court ended up ruling in the city’s favor.

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold said when Dallas passed its ban that the city shouldn’t back down on the issue because of a potential legal fight.

“I fear no courts,” Arnold said. “I am here because of a court. Somebody had to fight so I could be here…so I don’t mind fighting.”

Plano City Council Member Shelby Williams has made similar statements about short-term rentals in his city. But the Plano Mayor John Muns said in a previous interview with KERA that the city council can’t pass a total ban because of the legal precedent.

Muns said that a homeowner who "wants to have a party and is making too much noise would be subject to the same restrictions" as someone operating a short-term rental.

“That has been clear in the law... there is no separation between those two," he said.

Suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has supported short-term rental owners in past legal fights. He argued in a 2018 amicus brief that an Austin short-term rental ordinance violated the property owners’ private property rights.

Texas Realtors also filed arguments in support of short-term rental owners who sued cities over their ordinances. Tray Bates, the organization’s vice president of government affairs, told KERA in a previous interview that property owners have the right to use their homes as a short-term rental.

“If you own your property, you should be able to be the one that makes the decisions about who lives in it,” he said.

The Texas Realtors’ political action committee (TREPAC) donated to all of the Plano city council members’ campaign funds when it wasn’t an election year. Bill France, who founded the Texas Neighborhood Coalition’s Plano chapter, said it was because of short-term rentals.

“They have to balance the demands of their funders, who’s funding their elections, who have come out and clearly stated ‘do not restrict short-term rentals,” France said.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at ncollins@kera.org and Caroline Love at clove@kera.org. Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

You can follow Nathan on Twitter at @nathannotforyou and Caroline at @carolinelove37

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Nathan Collins
Caroline Love