J. Patrick Sutton Cases & Issues Blog

Final Judgment in Briarcliff Property Owners Assoc. v. Hays -- Short Term Rental Ban Invalidated

On February 26, 2013, following a December 2012 jury trial, the Travis County District Court entered judgment in favor of my client, Marvin William Hays, as against Briarcliff Property Owners Association, invalidating the HOA's short-term rental ban and awarding $40,000 in attorney's fees plus costs of suit to Hays. The final judgment is here. The final judgment incorporates the summary judgment orders earlier in the case that invalidated the rental ban.

The trial itself, which was over issues the HOA asserted after its rental ban got invalidated as a matter of law, focused on whether Hays had ever rented to "non single families" -- for any term, short or long. Hays had conceded at trial that he had not tried to determine whether and how his renters were related (for example, by blood, marriage, adoption, etc.) since the HOA had never bothered to regulate rentals of any kind prior to March 2011, when it issued its ban on all short-term rentals. Thus, the HOA won $2,400 in fines at trial, reflecting a jury finding of 12 days of non-single-family rentals in 2009 and 2010.

The HOA spent around $150,000 to obtain $2400 in fines, even though its short-term rental ban went by the wayside entirely. The central purpose of its lawsuit against homeowner Hays failed.

What does "single family" mean? No one knows, really -- the jury wasn't asked to decide that, and the judge didn't impose a definition for the jury to use. I address that issue in a separate blog entry.

In March 2013, the Village of Briarcliff enacted short term rental regulations addressing the kinds of concerns residents had about STR's. The HOA is a subset of the Village, and the city ordinances apply to everyone. STR's are allowed but restricted, as in many communities.
J. Patrick Sutton Cases & Issues Blog