The lawsuit filed by a local homeowner against the town of Flower Mound involving short-term rental rights has concluded based on a filing technicality.
Earlier this year Elaine Wells, who owns a home in south Flower Mound, sued the town after the Board of Adjustment upheld a town decision that she was in violation of ordinances for renting out her home.
The board denied Wells’ appeal of the town’s decision that her house was being used as a boardinghouse or roominghouse. Those uses are only allowed in multifamily zoned areas. Her house, located in The Villages of Northshore subdivision, is zoned single-family.
Bryn Meredith, the town attorney, said Wells’ case was dismissed on procedural grounds, saying the judge ruled Wells did not timely file the appropriate appeal of the Board of Adjustments’ decision, thus the court does not have jurisdiction in the case.
“To appeal the Board of Appeals determination there are strict requirements,” Meredith said. “You have to follow those, and if not the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.”
Meredith said the window to file that appeal has now passed.
Meanwhile, the town is working on crafting an ordinance that would address the matter going forward, per direction given by the Town Council at the recent strategic planning session.
Matt Woods, director of environmental services, said while details of the ordinance aren’t finalized, it would likely require a homeowner to apply for and be granted a specific use permit (SUP) and go through zoning rules before using their home as a short-term rental.
“There will be a lot of standards put on there,” Woods said.
Woods said the ordinance is still a few months away from being complete, and once it is it will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council. He said there will likely be a work session on it first.
Woods said over the last two years the town has received fewer than five complaints about a residence being used as a short-term rental.
Flower Mound officials had paid close bills filed at the Texas Legislature this year as they relate to short-term rentals, such as Senate Bill 1888 and House Bill 3773. Those would have restricted municipalities from banning short-term rentals and limited what they could do about those. But neither bill made it through.
In April of 2018 the town received a complaint that she had been using her house as a boardinghouse, said Christina Crowe, the town's property standards manager.
Crowe said a boardinghouse/roominghouse is defined as renting a home for compensation and/or food to more than three people. Crowe said there was an online listing for Wells’ home for up to 14 guests for $302 a night.
Wells told the board since 2017 she has rented her house to 16 people. She said the length of time has varied for three days to a week. She said stays have included six to 14 people.
But Wells claimed it’s not clear if the boardinghouse/roominghouse definition of “three or more people” is speaking to the number of occupants or the number of individual tenants who have rental agreements with the property owner. Wells said there is one renter at a time regardless of the number of occupants.
“The ordinance’s definition of roominghouse/boardinghouse is too vague to be enforceable, nor can it be applied fairly,” Wells told the board.
Wells also said there is no mention of renting property in the town’s definition of single-family residence and its uses.
Residents in Wells’ neighborhood told the board they had safety concerns since the short-term rental brought in people they didn’t know, often times from out of state.
Wells could not be reached for comment following the conclusion of the lawsuit.