By Alexander Morrissette
July 20th marked an important victory for the sharing economy in Austin. Rob Henneke of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, sought to prevent the city of Austin from enforcing its short-term rental ordinance to punish a client who only sought to host a small gathering to watch the Democratic National Convention. The Travis County District Court never had a chance to consider the merits of TPPF’s claims, because rather than defend their nonsensical ordinance, city officials have decided to distance themselves from the ordinance by promising not to enforce it.
Under the ordinance, owners and visitors of short term rental properties are forced to subject themselves to a number archaic regulations, ranging from 10:00 PM curfews and occupancy caps, to the threat of warrantless searches at any time. Violators of Austin’s cumbersome and overreaching ordinance risk a $2,000 fine, and the revocation of their short-term renters’ license.
TPPF proponents the notion that the freedom of assembly and association are two inherently fundamental American liberties that should not be violated, except under the most extenuating circumstances. TPPF believes that these basic American freedoms should not be surrendered simply because someone chooses to stay in a short-term rental property.
Unfortunately the Court never reached those issues. Instead, the District Court Judge denied TPPF’s request for an injunction on the grounds that city officials promised that they would not enforce the ordinance as it is written on the books, and hence no injunction was necessary. While the request for an injunction was denied, the city’s unwillingness to be associated with the unconstitutional stipulations of their STR ordinance bodes well for the TPPF lawsuit’s long-term prospects, and for the future of the sharing economy in Austin.