We hear about the “Nanny State” all the time — whenever government enacts overprotective laws that interfere with our ability to live our lives on our own terms. But the city of Austin, Texas, has taken nannying to a new level, imposing a 10 p.m. bedtime on home-sharing guests in the city (along with several other severe restrictions).

This is one of the latest (and most ludicrous) examples of government intruding on property rights by regulating home-sharing—the practice of renting a room or an entire home from a homeowner, often through an online platform like Airbnb and HomeAway. Home-sharing offers travelers a cost-effective alternative to traditional hotels, it helps homeowners pay their mortgages, and it gives entrepreneurs an incentive to buy dilapidated houses and restore them.

As Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur explains, it’s a matter of the fundamental right to own property, which the Institute strongly defends:

“Home-sharing is an important way for property owners to exercise their basic right to choose whether to let someone stay in their home—a right the United States Supreme Court has called “one of the most essential sticks in the bundle of rights that are commonly characterized as property.” 

“Unfortunately, the city of Austin has not welcomed this economic opportunity or respected the rights of property owners, but rather joined a growing number of cities that have imposed draconian rules that deprive homeowners of some of their most basic constitutional rights.”

Austin’s regulations restrict the number and activity of guests of short-term (but not long-term) rentals, subject home-sharers to warrantless searches, and completely ban homeowners from offering their home as a short-term rental if the home isn’t their primary residence. This hurts communities and punishes the responsible majority of property owners for the potential wrongs of a few irresponsible homeowners.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is challenging these unfair regulations on behalf of Austin homeowners as violations of the Texas and United States constitutions. And this week, the Goldwater Institute filed a brief in support of these homeowners.

The good news is that this battle can be won. Arizona’s Home-Sharing Act, passed in 2016 and based on Goldwater Institute model legislation, prevents cities from imposing extreme and arbitrary rules against home-sharing. Just this week, the city of Sedona was found to be in violation of state law for unlawfully discriminating against short-term rentals by requiring homeowners to apply for a business license, even though long-term rentals don’t have to ask for government permission.

We hope that Austin’s anti-home-sharing ordinance will be struck down, but if that doesn’t happen, Texas lawmakers can follow Arizona’s lead and enact the Goldwater Institute’s model legislation to protect property rights statewide.

Liberty in the News

President Donald Trump addressed the nation yesterday on the issue of prescription drug prices and opened his remarks with a shout-out for making Right to Try the law of the land (a policy based on Goldwater Institute model legislation), giving life-saving hope to terminally ill patients.

Under federal law, pharmaceutical companies can be charged with a crime simply for telling a doctor about a legal, alternative use for an approved treatment. In a new Federalist Society paper, Goldwater Institute Executive Vice President Christina Sandefur calls for free speech in medicine and explains that this information could help improve—and even save—people’s lives.

Over the last 12 months, students at public universities in Georgia have exposed outrageous censorship policies on campus. This week, state lawmakers acted to protect free speech and added another victory for free expression in 2018, as Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Butcher writes in a new article.