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AG Ken Paxton Asks to Jump Into Austin Rental Fight

The attorney general is siding with the Texas Public Policy Foundation in a challenge to Austin's limits on short-term rentals.

Texas Attorney Gen.  Ken Paxton, speaks at The Texas Response: Pastors, Marriage & Religious Freedom event at the First Baptist Church in Pflugerville, Texas on September 29, 2015

The state’s top attorney is jumping into the fray over a controversial Austin ordinance that regulates short-term home rentals made popular by websites like Airbnb and HomeAway.

Attorney General Ken Paxton asked to intervene Wednesday in a lawsuit brought by a group of Austin homeowners after the Austin City Council last year passed new rules trying to rein in short-term rentals. Residents had complained “about strangers coming into their neighborhoods for short periods of time” and hosting “loud parties late into the night,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. The city stopped issuing new short-term rental licenses, limited the areas where homes could be leased and set a 2022 deadline for the end of such rentals.

Paxton is asking Travis County District Judge Scott Jenkins for permission to intervene in the suit homeowners already filed against the city. In their court filing, lawyers from Paxton’s office said the homeowners bought or fixed up houses intending to rent them out through sharing economy websites. The state argues that Austin’s ordinance “functionally ousts homeowners and investors from real property without just compensation.”

A spokesman for Austin Mayor Steve Adler declined to comment late Wednesday.

The free-market research group Texas Public Policy Foundation filed the lawsuit on homeowners’ behalf and hailed Paxton for defending Austin residents “burdened” by the regulations.

“Austin’s short-term rental ordinance is an affront to liberty and a danger to people’s basic constitutional rights,” said James Quintero, director of the foundation’s Center for Local Governance. “The city has so overstepped its authority on this issue that every Texan — irrespective of political beliefs — should welcome the chance to have this ordinance thrown out as unconstitutional.”

Disclosure: The Texas Public Policy Foundation has been financial a supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Related to this story:

  • Attorney General Ken Paxton lost his last-minute bid to prevent the federal government from transferring its oversight of internet registrations to an international body. 
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Supreme Court to hear his arguments about why the state’s photo ID requirements for voting aren't discriminatory to minority voters.

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Ken Paxton