Dallas officials can’t agree on banning short-term rentals in neighborhoods

Dallas City Council members can’t agree on whether the city should ban short-term rentals in neighborhoods made up of single-family homes.

On Wednesday, Dallas code planners and enforcers presented council members with new zoning options to regulate properties such as those listed on Airbnb, VRBO and other platforms. They asked the staff to come up with a revised option later this month.

The city currently has no rules for how short-term rentals — residential properties or units that are typically rented for less than 30 days — are handled in Dallas. The lack of regulation has for years frustrated some residents who find few solutions with the city and little or no accountability for irresponsible hosts or guests.

Dallas may introduce stricter check-in requirements for short-term rental hosts

September could be the council’s first vote on some form of short-term rental regulation, having set up three working groups to examine the issue since 2020.

Although council members are divided on how to regulate short-term rentals, they were united in their skepticism about the city’s ability to actually enforce new rules on properties.

City officials have no idea how many people are operating in Dallas. There are approximately 1,200 operators who are actively registered as short-term rental hosts with the city. But officials believe there are just as many operators who are unregistered. Other sources, such as data analytics website AirDNA, claim there are nearly 5,000 active rentals in Dallas.

“I’m really not sure we’re even close to having the capacity to implement everything we’re doing here,” council member Adam McGough said, referring to the proposed zoning changes and the mandatory regulations.

The two options presented to the board work like this:

Option A would update zoning rules to divide short-term rental types into those that are owner-occupied and those that are not.

Short-term, owner-occupied rentals would be allowed in all zoning districts, as they are now, but non-owner-occupied rentals — such as when an owner has multiple Airbnbs but lives offsite — would be banned altogether in areas zoned for single-family homes.

There would be mandatory off-street parking. There could not be more than one short-term rental in a housing unit, and it could not be used as an event venue, restaurant or other form of commercial amusement, unless it was is in an area reserved for this use and that the owner has a certification allowing this activity.

Council member Chad West said he was in favor of the proposal.

“I see it as an option for us to finally do this and move forward,” he said.

Option B would have the same parking requirements and event location restrictions that prohibit rentals from being the site of banquets, charity gatherings, graduation ceremonies, or other celebrations. But rentals would continue to be allowed in all zoning districts.

Council members Adam Bazaldua and Jaynie Schultz expressed support for this plan, believing it to be the most flexible. Bazaldua said the city should start by establishing registration rules to allow penalties for bad hosts, though he said he thinks they represent a minority of short-term rental operators.

“We need to put something on the books as soon as possible so that we can start getting these bad actors out,” he said.

A third option, proposed by council member Carolyn King Arnold on Wednesday, calls for all short-term rental operators to be banned from offering accommodation in single-family residential areas. She called it the easiest option to offer homeowners relief.

“For a while it was so low on the radar it didn’t even catch on, but now it’s a major offence,” King Arnold said. His proposal received support from board members Paul Ridley, Cara Mendelsohn and Jesse Moreno.

A sticking point is how to respond to 311 calls regarding short-term rentals. The department currently only responds to complaints about properties on weekends and these staff members are made up of people working overtime.

Lynetta Kidd, the city’s acting director of code compliance, told council members that her department would need more staff to regularly field 311 calls about short-term rental properties.

“It would be a 24/7 operation,” Kidd said.

His department is recommending new regulations that include mandatory registration of operators in the city with a mandate that online platforms not list unregistered properties, annual registration fees, requiring short-term rentals to be distanced from at least 1,500 feet apart in single-family and duplex areas, that the properties are subject to routine inspections and that an emergency contact is listed with each property in the event of a complaint.

If a property received three citations, the city could revoke its registration.

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