Rules for Short Term Rental Hosts

Using your primary residence as a short term rental through services like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway can be a great way to make some passive income. For me personally, I travel a lot, so rather than have my place sit empty whenever I’m out of town, I rent it out to make some extra money. It’s a win-win.

If you’re thinking about becoming a short term rental host, it’s important that you do your homework first. Every area is different, and many cities and towns impose certain laws and regulations with regards to vacation rentals. In fact, given the increasing popularity of home-sharing services, many locations are implementing new requirements for short term rental hosts.

For instance, some cities have laws restricting the ability to host paying guests for specified amounts of time. In many towns, cities and municipalities, you must register your home as a short term rental and obtain either a permit or a license before you’re allowed to list the property or accept paying guests. Some types of bookings may be prohibited entirely.

Take San Francisco’s regulations, for example. In order to use your home as a short term rental, you must spend at least 275 nights a year there and guests cannot stay beyond 30 days. Owners must also register as a short term rental host with the city and obtain a Business Registration Certificate. Other popular vacation destinations, like South Lake Tahoe, impose even more rules and regulations with regards to short term rentals, including maximum number of occupants allowed and more.

It’s important that you find out exactly what the rules and regulations are in your geographical area before you begin the short term rental process. Otherwise, you could face hefty fines or other serious penalties.

Many cities and states also require that a short term rental host collect and pay taxes for each night a guest is staying. Some of the popular listing sites, like Airbnb, may handle this process for you, however, that is based on the jurisdiction you are in. In other words, you may still be on the hook.

Some of this information can be found listed by state on Airbnb’s Responsible Hosting page. Likewise, VRBO also has a similar regulations page with lots of helpful information for short term rental hosts. Because laws change and new rules are continuously being added, however, you should always do your due diligence and check directly with your city, town and state representatives, just in case.

The good news is, because this industry is growing rapidly, more and more local governments are creating web pages dedicated to helping short term rental hosts stay in compliance with all laws and ordinances. A quick Google search with your location and the phrase “short term vacation rental regulations” should help you find the information you need. And, of course, when in doubt, a phone call to your city or town officials should do the trick.

Renting out your home on a site like Airbnb or VRBO can be a lucrative business venture. But be sure to do your homework first to make sure you’re operating within the rules of your local jurisdiction. That way you can avoid running into costly problems down the road.

Interested in trying to AirBnB your home? Check out these tips to get started.


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