By Lance Simms, Director of Planning & Development Services
The buzz around Texas A&M has never been greater, and last week’s season-opening win against South Carolina only added to the excitement. College Station’s population surpassed 100,000 in January, and we’re rushing to keep up with new development and accommodate thousands of Southeastern Conference football fans.
Existing hotels — and even the new ones nearing completion — were booked as soon as A&M’s 2014 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 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.
Game day housing rentals
Unless you are operating as a bed and breakfast, you are violating city ordinances — and perhaps your own homeowners or neighborhood association covenants — by renting out your home to football fans.
The primary purpose for these restrictions is to maintain neighborhood integrity and ensure public safety, which are high priorities for the city. 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 also 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 in 2012 includes parking restrictions designed to improve the safety of 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.
What do other SEC cities do?
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 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.
Consider the implications
If you rent out your house this fall, you should also consider the impact on your liability insurance. Your home may no longer be 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.
Finally, if you live in a neighborhood covered by a homeowners association, you may face fines from the HOA if you violate its deed restrictions or bylaws.
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, contact Planning & Development Services at 979-764-3570.
Editor’s Note: Much of this blog is re-purposed from a blog posted in 2013 by Morgan Hester.