After a Judge Overturned Wilmington’s Vacation Rental Regulations, City Asks Court If It Can Continue to Break the Law While It Appeals

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · September 18, 2020

Wilmington, N.C.—Wilmington’s vacation rental owners will have to wait a little longer to celebrate their right to rent their home. Following a decisive win on Tuesday, yesterday the city announced it would appeal the decision and asked the court to suspend enforcement of the order until the appeals process is complete. The city argued that compliance with the ruling would impose a host of administrative headaches and the court agreed.

“It shouldn’t be an administrative headache to not fine or prosecute a homeowner who wants to exercise their right to rent their property,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Ari Bargil. “It is unfortunate and frustrating that the city refuses to accept that its law was illegal, but we won a decisive victory on Tuesday and we’re confident that the appeals court will agree and put an end to Wilmington’s illegal law once and for all.”

The Institute for Justice (“IJ”) represents Peg and David Schroeder in their challenge against the city’s ordinance that established a lottery system for vacation rentals in Wilmington. The Schroeders lost their right to rent their property when the lottery awarded that right to one of their neighbors. Under the ordinance, two property owners within 400 feet of one another could not both rent at the same time. The Schroeders challenged the city’s ordinance, arguing that it was unconstitutional and violated state law. On Tuesday, Judge Harrell entered an order siding with the Schroeders and finding that state law preempted the city’s ordinance.

“It is terribly unfortunate for all of the people who were so relieved to learn on Wednesday they could again resume earning income from their vacation rentals only to learn a day later that they had again been deprived of that right,” said Peg Schroeder. “We are hopeful that the city will use this time efficiently to restore citizens’ rights. If not, we will not give up.”

“Obtaining a stay pending appeal is fairly commonplace in cases like this,” continued Bargil. “As frustrating as it is that the city refuses to recognize that it was breaking the law, we will continue to standby the Schroeders and all of Wilmington’s homeowners until this ordinance is invalidated.”

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