“Texas A&M (is) now the coolest school in the state.”
FoxSportsSouthwest.com (Feb. 6, 2013)
The buzz around Texas A&M has never been greater, and a preseason top 10 national ranking for the Aggie football team has only added to the excitement. As College Station’s population approaches 100,000, we’re rushing to keep up with new development that supports our newfound coolness and accommodates thousands of Southeastern Conference fans.
It’s no surprise that Aggie football nearly doubles College Station’s population on game weekends. Existing hotels — and even the new ones nearing completion — were booked as soon as the 2013 schedule was announced. Those who couldn’t reserve a hotel room are searching near and far for a place to stay.
Some local property owners have found a remedy to the room shortage by renting out their homes – or even single rooms — on football weekends. That’s prompted dozens of College Station residents to call us. Some want to know if it’s okay to rent their homes, while others don’t want it to happen in their neighborhood.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s allowed, and what’s not.
Unless you are registered with the city as a bed and breakfast, you are violating city ordinances, and perhaps your own homeowners or neighborhood association covenants, by renting your home to football fans.
Game day housing rentals
The primary purpose for these restrictions is to maintain neighborhood integrity and ensure public safety, which are high priorities for many of our residents. Short-term rentals are limited to hotels and motels located in commercial zones. Renting out homes or single rooms – game day housing — is not permitted, unless the property owner remains on-site and operates as a registered bed and breakfast.
Bed and breakfasts (Code of Ordinances 12.6.5.C.2) are permitted in residential zones, but only under these circumstances:
- It must be part of the owner’s permanent residence.
- It must maintain a residential appearance.
- It must be the permanent residence of the proprietor.
- No more than four unrelated people can stay there overnight.
In our older neighborhoods such as Southside, parking is a major concern. The Southside Area Neighborhood Plan adopted last September includes parking restrictions designed to improve safety on streets that weren’t constructed to current standards. In some areas, parking on both sides made streets impassable and created public safety issues for our fire and police departments. In addition, many of these homes don’t have off-street parking and can’t accommodate a large number of visitors.
In many of our neighborhoods, the city doesn’t need to enforce the ordinance because deed restrictions and bylaws don’t allow game day housing. If rules are violated, homeowners may face fines and penalties from their homeowners or neighborhood association.
What do other college cities do?
We’ve discovered College Station isn’t alone when it comes to game day housing ordinances, especially in the SEC. Several years ago, city officials in Tuscaloosa (University of Alabama), Starkville (Mississippi State), and Oxford (Ole Miss) took action to restrict the activity.
- In Tuscaloosa, local realtors were told to remove game day housing rental information from their websites or face a fine. Tuscaloosa doesn’t include hotels and motels in its definition of a dwelling unit.
- Oxford, a small town of about 20,000, has only a limited number of hotel rooms available and local officials call game day rentals “endemic.” Oxford defines game day housing as a commercial use and prohibits it in residential areas.
- Like College Station, Starkville doesn’t have enough hotels to house all its visitors. Starkville addresses its game day housing issues on a case-by-case basis as problems arise.
Some SEC cities have had difficulty enforcing similar ordinances. Gainesville (University of Florida) once licensed landlords to restrict use, but a state law passed in 2011 prohibits local governments from banning short-term rentals. Gainesville can’t address game day rentals because it can’t create specific regulations.
A final consideration
If you rent out your house this fall, you should also consider the impact on your liability insurance. Your home is no longer considered residential when its use is essentially changed to commercial, and insurance coverage may not be attainable if someone is injured or the home is damaged.
If you are thinking about renting out your home to visiting football fans this fall, be sure to consider the implications. If you have any questions about game day rentals, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gig ’em, Aggies!