One question I get asked a lot is, “Is it legal to use my property as a vacation rental where I live?”. This is regulated at the local level by zoning laws and while I can’t go into every single county, city and town, what I can do is tell you a few places I look to try and figure this out when I’m trying to answer this question.
- The first step is always to check and see if your locale has a section of their website dedicated to vacation or short term rentals. A simple search of their site should bring this up.
- Barring that, try to look up what zone your property is in. For this, try doing a google search for “[YOUR CITY] zone lookup” or “[YOUR CITY] Zone map”. This will generally get you to the right place.
- Then you want to look up the actual code. Many cities will link to the specific zoning laws for your property’s zone on the zone lookup page, but if they don’t just do a Google search for “[YOUR CITY] zoning code” or something of the sort.
- Zoning code documents are generally PDF files and searchable so to find the section that you’re looking for try searching them for terms like “vacation”, “short term”, “Minimum nights”, “minimum days”. If you still can’t find anything then just search for “rental” to see if you can find the section of the code that addresses rentals. Often times you’ll be looking for a zoning table which lists the zones across the top, the possible uses on the left and in the table will be something in each cell that indicates whether that use is permitted for that zone.
- If you can’t find anything in the city’s code, then look for the public minutes of city council meetings and search those. Again, you’ll be looking for the word “vacation” or “short term”. Often times vacation rentals aren’t addressed in city codes and in those cases we often see people bring the issue up in public comment. You can usually tell from that meeting minutes’ description of that public comment where the city code currently stands on short term rentals.
- Go to news.google.com and do a search for “[YOUR CITY] vacation rentals”. This will search news articles that mention your city and vacation rentals and hopefully return some recent articles that cover what’s currently happening with the legal aspects of vacation rentals in your town.
- See if your town has a vacation rental or AirBnb Facebook Group and try to join it. Usually folks in these groups are happy to share the current legal state of vacation rentals in your town or at least point you in the right direction to find out.
And if all of these fail, you can always just reach out to your local zoning enforcement folks and ask them.