Do you offer short term rentals on your property? Then you may be affected by a new ordinance under consideration by the Killeen City Council.
According to Leslie Hinkle, Killeen’s executive director of community services, short term rentals like Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway populate the city’s landscape, despite often being illegal. She explained during a April 19 workshop that it is illegal to rent out property in part or in its entirety if it has been zoned “R-1” for single family residences.
In spite of this fact, Hinkle estimated that Killeen lists at least 200 short term rental properties, not including those on Craigslist or the Facebook marketplace. According to Hinkle, none of Killeen’s short term properties are paying the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax, which Killeen’s ordinances would require to be paid at 7% of the rental rate.
In total, Hinkle estimates that Killeen could have received some $194,688 in Hotel Occupancy Tax in 2021 if it regulated just Airbnb and Vrbo rentals. Additionally, Hinkle pointed out that, despite rigourous cleaning and maintenance requirements, most short term rentals are self-regulated and reported. Safety measures such as smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and other safety compliance laws may not be regulated as closely as they are in hotels and motels.
Several short term renters spoke during the April 19 workshop, including Anca Neagu and Rick Webber.
“There is good communication, there’s a good checklist in place, and safety health concerns are always met,” Webber said.
Neagu argued that “there is no need for anyone else” to inspect the properties as it is in the renters best interest to ensure safety and cleanliness.
No ordinance has been developed as of yet, but city staff is expected to return with a regulatory ordinance in the future, which it will use to crack down on short term renters.
Until then, city staff has said that it is effectively pointless to prosecute current non-compliant short term renters as an ordinance would likely be adopted by the time any such case wound its way through the courts.
In the meantime, short term renters have been encouraged to reach out to members of the City Council with their perspective on the issue and possible solutions.