Council Report: Fort Worth looks at short-term rental regulatons

Fort Worth City Hall 


One of the nation’s most popular crazes is making some folks crazy about not having them in their neighborhoods.

The Fort Worth City Council, at Tuesday’s work session, received a briefing on short-term rental (STR) regulations. These usually include staying in a person’s home or apartment in lieu of a hotel room – for a cost, of course – and the property owners work through a variety of companies.

The presentation reviewed current zoning regulations and enforcement for short-term rental use, along with reviewing regulations in other cities, recommendations, compliance options, and suggesting next steps.

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“We have looked at what other cities are doing and are suggesting the council might consider a conditional use permit as a tool to allow the use on a limited or controlled basis in residential neighborhoods,” Planning and Development Director Randle Harwood said.

Harwood said Airbnb is the most prominent company sponsoring short-term rentals, but added “There are dozens – if not more – other companies that do the same thing.”

Currently, STRs are allowed in all mixed-use/form-based, commercial, and industrial districts by right with a certificate of occupancy. They are not allowed in residential districts for under 30 days rental.

To enforce violations, code compliance responds on complaint basis, usually a result of a nuisance report for complaints such as noise, parking, too many people, or parties/events. Advertisement of an STR alone is not sufficient to indicate illegal use.

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Violations were once treated as a basic zoning violation and could not be tracked. However, a separate category was created in June for tracking purposes. There have been 11 violations to date.

“The ordinance says 30-day rentals in the city, which is a bunch of hooey,” District 7 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Shingleton said. “I’ve seen two rental agreements that say you have to sign it for 30 days, but if at the end of the second day you decide to leave, just sign it here and you can leave. That makes it null and void and makes no sense. We have a loophole in ours, either we tighten it or loosen it.”

The zoning ordinance recommendation for Fort Worth includes:

*Require a conditional use permit (CUP) with site plan rather than zoning change.

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*Require payment of hotel occupancy tax (currently it is self-reported).

*Require registration for single-family homes and certificates of occupancy for multi-family buildings.

*Limit rental to a single party of individuals.

*Limit amplified sound and outdoor gatherings at night.

*Require contact person (name, phone, email) for complaints.

*Applicant provides and city council decides site-specific conditions for each CUP, such as owner-occupied or investor-owned, maximum occupancy, required parking and location, and request of a time frame (example, 3-5 years).

Harwood said of those who are paying the HOT while operating in a restricted neighborhood, “They’re trying to be as legal as possible while maintaining illegal use.”

“There’s not an easy answer. It’s going to take a lot of creative legislation if we’re going to do it right,” Shingleton said, noting that Texas is a property rights state and state officials have argued that cities should not be allowed to regulate short-term rentals.

“The state was looking at making this so cities couldn’t regulate this at all, and I think that is extremely problematic,” District 9 Councilwoman Ann Zadeh said. “If we come up with reasonable regulations we’re less likely to face another challenge of the state telling us we can’t regulate this at all.”

Looking at a sampling of other cities around the state, San Antonio, Austin and Arlington all have STR regulations, whereas Dallas, Houston, Plano and Irving do not. All but Irving are collecting hotel occupancy taxes from STRs.

Regulatory approaches in other cities include:

*Restricting STRs in certain zoning districts.

*Limiting proximity between rentals.

*Limiting frequency of rentals.

*Requiring a host onsite.

*Requiring rental registration with city.

*Limiting the number of vehicles.

*Additional regulations if the rental is not the primary residence of the owner.

City staff will explore implementation and enforcement options and seek public input between now and the end of the year. In January, city council will receive another briefing and discuss policy guidance, and in Februrary-March, ordinance changes will be made as necessary.

“I’m just not real comfortable with this right now,” Mayor Betsy Price said. “I think we need to do a lot more work on it. “I’m not saying I’m 100% against it, but we need to think about all the input and where it puts us with our neighborhoods and neighborhood associations.”

Price also suggested that everyone on the council visit with the neighborhood and home owner associations in their districts to get their input.