Homeowners suing Mayor Adler and City of Austin
"When I found this house it was such a great price and thought we had to jump on it," says Ahmad Zaatari of his South Austin home. Owning one seems to be a right of passage for most Americans.
But for Zaatari and his wife Marwi, both Lebanese immigrants it's something they never thought possible.
"If you think about the American dream what the American dream is about, it's for you to come here and within the bounds of law pursue your life, in a much better way," he says.
Last year Ahmad's dream crumbled when he lost his job. So he and Marwa moved into an apartment and got a license for short term rentals. Airbnb shows their listing starts at $299 a night. He says that they need the income in order to stay in Austin.
"It sustains our daily expenses, we have a daycare bill, we have our rent in Austin, we have a one income family."
In February, Austin tightened the ordinance. They also stopped handing out short term rental licenses to homeowners like Ahmad, who own their home, but don't live there so they can rent it out.
The Austin City Council says they are hoping to phase out those kinds of short term rentals all together. Ahmad is worried that when that happens his extra income will disappear.
"It really hurts when you are able to build something."
Zaatari and his wife, along with 5 others are suing the City of Austin, and its Mayor, Steve Adler. They claim the city's new rules violate their rights. The rules they say, include random searches and a curfew, that owners or their renters can't do anything but sleep after 10pm.
"There "similar activity" is overly broad, " says Robert Henneke.
He's a lawyer with The Texas Public Policy Foundation. The TPPF filed the suit on behalf of the homeowners.
"It's not defined and it gives the City of Austin's government the claimed authority to regulate and pose limits on an undefined limitless scope of activity."
Zaatari adds, "For someone to come and say we are going to come and take that away from you, what's next?"
While he waits though to see what will happen to his own economic future, there is hope that he can teach his young son a lesson that's much stronger than bricks and mortar.
"He should stand up for his rights and for what he thinks is right, as opposed to running away."
In a statement, a City of Austin spokesperson said:
The City's Code department says since January they've received 575 complaints for short term rentals, 128 of those were "verifiable violations."
They couldn't tell FOX 7 how many of those complaints were multiple calls to one address. FOX 7 did request complaint information for Ahmad Zaatari's address. They say the address hasn't received any complaints, at all.