Attorneys for short-term rental property owners say city violated judge's order

Motions petition to put Metro in contempt of court
Posted at 10:34 AM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 18:26:24-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Several short-term rental property owners filed a petition to put the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County in civil contempt of the court for violating a judge's order.

They said the city still sent out letters to revoke their permits even though the judge approved the owners could continue to rent their properties for now.

The motions for contempt surround the decision by the Metro Codes Department to revoke 144 STR permits after it mistakenly issued after a wrong interpretation of the law.

The law last year said no short-term rental permit can be issued to a duplex or so-called tall and skinny homes sharing a property, unless both homes are owned by the same person, and that person lives in one of the units.

As expected, the city sent out revocation letters on January 30th “to immediately cease operations as a short term rental, remove any online listings of the property, and cancel any future bookings.”

The revocation letter further stated that to “continue to advertise and/or operate the STRP after February 15, 2019, the matter will be referred to Metro Legal for prosecution in environmental court.”

However, Jamie Hollin, the attorney for 35 plaintiffs, said the city violated the temporary injunction by sending out a second revocation letter on the 15th, days after an agreed order that said:

The Plaintiff’s STRP permit shall remain in full force and effect pending further Orders of this Court. The Metropolitan Government is enjoined from enforcing or attempting to enforce the Metro Code’s prohibition on advertising and/or operating an STRP without a permit, or any other provision of the Metro Code of Laws at issue in this litigation on Plaintiff for the property located at 1211B Sigler Street until this Court issues a final ruling on the merits of this litigation.

Metro attorney Cate Pham said that in retrospect, the second set of letters was confusing and "perhaps poor judgment." She added that the zoning administrator sent out letters to clarify the situation the day before the hearing.

"It was not intended to violate the agreement, it was intended as a courtesy to complete the process the zoning administrator is used to completing and it has no legal effect," Pham said.

Metro Zoning Administrator Jon Michael took the stand and said the department "failed to create a separate sequence of letter or letters for the folks involved in the current litigation which would have created greater clarity."

Hollin fired back by saying it is not about the intent, but whether or not the action did take place. Grover Collins, attorney for six plaintiffs, agreed and said the practice to send out a second notice has not been normal procedure.

"It is not historically their practice, it is laughable to me that they would characterize the practice they did in this case as a historical practice and way of doing things. The question is 'Did you or did you not do this?' We're just asking to be held to the same standard as Metro holds our clients everyday," Collins said.

Chancellor Anne Martin will review the case and will determine a decision if the city should be in contempt later.

There will be another hearing for at least seven more plaintiffs on March 6.