Dallas Residents Call for More City Watch on Short-Term Rentals

UPDATE 10:20 am on May 6 with a declaration from an online rental platform.

Supporters and opponents of short-term rentals said Wednesday they supported increased surveillance in Dallas, but were divided over whether the city should allow them to continue operating or impose a ban.

Nearly 100 people have spoken at a Dallas City Council public hearing on the regulation of rooms and homes advertised on Airbnb, VRBO and other platforms.

Dallas currently does not have rules for short term rentals. Owners must register with the city and pay hotel occupancy taxes, but most don’t either. The city also does not have an effective way to impose fines or punish landowners with the most complaints.

Several supporters who are owners of short-term rental housing said they had rarely faced complaints and that their homes had been used to help people in crisis, such as those displaced by the winter storm in February. They stressed that they were following the current city rules.

Nelson Lim, an Airbnb host, said he believes the city should focus its efforts on properties where guests repeatedly have problems. He noted that he and others are responsible hosts who do not allow parties at their properties.

“We add a lot of value to local businesses and restaurants,” Lim said. “We have welcomed so many people who have moved to Dallas because they have seen all the positive sides of the city through us as hosts.”

Opponents, most of whom identified as residents living north of Interstate 30, said they were fed up with properties rented as party houses with little to no ramifications for the owners.

Several have called for them to be kept away from neighborhoods with single-family homes, and others have called for an outright ban.

Jose Luis Briones, Airbnb’s public policy manager for Texas, said in a statement that the short-term rental platform is working with the city to continue operating with reasonable rules for responsible hosts.

“Over the past few months, we have had meaningful conversations with city leaders,” he said in the statement.

The public hearing comes after an advisory working group, formed last year, made recommendations. The city attorney’s office in March presented eight options on the regulation of short-term rental properties, including a ban on renting for less than 31 days or a change in zoning rules to restrict where they can operate.

Short-term rentals account for less than 1% of Dallas’ roughly 531,000 residential units, according to a city ​​report.

The analysis also found that they do not appear to reduce property values ​​or have a negative impact on neighborhoods, and over 90% have not received any complaints.

About 60% of short-term rentals are concentrated in a few parts of the city. Most, 638, are in parts of downtown, Uptown and East Dallas in City Council District 14. The rest of downtown and Cedars and Deep Ellum (in District 2) have 439, and the Bishop Arts District (District 1) has 439. 248.

Currently, short-term rental properties are exempt from the city’s current program which requires residential rentals to be registered and inspected.

Still, owners are supposed to register with the city and pay hotel occupancy taxes, but the city has no mechanism to ensure that happens.

The city doesn’t know how many short-term rental properties are in Dallas or where they are, and only sends letters encouraging operators they know to pay the tax.

Nearly 700 short-term rental properties identified by the city in January contributed about $ 1.2 million of the city’s $ 41.6 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue for 2020. The remainder came from 250 registered hotels, according to Joey Zapata, deputy city manager.

Zapata, who oversees Dallas’ quality of life services, said the city suspected more than 1,300 other properties were either not on the city’s list or paying tax.

Since 2019, the city has entered into a five-year agreement with a provider of tax collection software to help identify short-term rentals in Dallas.

But Zapata said in March that the process was difficult because platforms like Airbnb and VRBO don’t list property addresses on their websites, making it harder for the provider to find them.

Joseph Cutcher said at least four of the 500 units he owns in East Dallas are short-term rental properties, which helps subsidize most of his sites.

“I will support anyone who wants to get rid of bad actors,” he said. “Most of the people here will support getting rid of the bad actors.”

Becky Oliver said she and her husband own a home in the Far East of Dallas next to a property advertised online as “the ultimate Texas experience.”

She said their six-year-old tenants were moving “after being tortured every weekend with one party after another.” Calls to 311 and the city’s code enforcement offices did not resolve anything, she said.

Amelia McVay said she sold her Old East Dallas home in 2019 to escape short-term rental properties and moved to the White Rock area.

She now lives in nearly 10 of them.

“I want to ask City Council a question: Where will Dallas families go when their right to quiet fun is taken away by the RTS next door?” McVey asked. “If you kill your quarters, you will kill your city. “

The City Council’s Quality of Life Committee will review public comments and then make a recommendation to the full council on May 17. The board expects to decide on a plan on June 9.

CORRECTION 10:20 a.m. on May 6, 2021: A previous version contained information from a resident saying that a problem home had not been removed from short-term rental platforms, but Airbnb said it removed that listing from its site.

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