If you spend enough time on the topic of keeping vacation or short term rentals legal, you’ll inevitably hear someone use the term “mini-hotel”.  It’s a pejorative designed to make short term rentals sound evil and it’s used over and over again by people who want to see short term rentals banned.  But a short term rental is nothing like a hotel and here’s why:

  • Hotels have lobbies, bars, restaurants, conference rooms, and sometimes even shops.  Their use of a piece of land goes far beyond even a typical multi-unit building. Short term rentals don’t have any of these things, they’re just a typical residential unit.
  • The definition of a hotel differs from a typical residential use building because its use differs.  Where I live, in San Diego, hotels are defined by the law as “a building containing six or more guest rooms that are rented for less than 30 days and used or designed to be used for sleeping purposes.”  The sleeping part seems to be a common thread in hotel definitions for a number of cities I’ve looked at and is a major difference between hotels and short term rentals. Hotels are primarily for sleeping because their rooms don’t have much in the way of living space.  Short term rentals have normal size kitchens, living rooms, closets, larger bathrooms, and all of the things that make a place a home. And short term rental guests use the space for more than just sleeping, they use it for typical residential living, just for less than 30 days.
  • Because hotels are used primarily for sleeping space their makeup is different.  Your average hotel room is smaller than your average apartment and this means density for hotel buildings is much higher, which in turn is why hotels have different rules and regulations when it comes to things like fire codes.  Short term rentals have the same density and makeup as typical residential buildings which is a far cry from hotels, this is why you rent a hotel “room” and not a hotel “apartment” or hotel “house”.
  • Anyone can walk into a hotel and rent a room right then and there.  You can’t just walk up to the front door of a short term rental and get a room.
  • Short term rental guests are vetted by hosts to make sure they’re a good fit for the property.   Guests generally communicate directly with a host letting them know what they’re planning on doing at the property to understand if it’s a good fit.  Hotel guests just book their room and show up, rarely ever communicating directly with hotel staff prior to check in.
  • Hotels have 24/7 on site staff.  Because the density and uses of a hotel differ dramatically from a short term rental, on site staff is necessary for hotels where it’s not for short term rentals.

So don’t buy into the “mini-hotel” rhetoric people spew when trying to justify banning short term rentals.  Short term rentals aren’t anything like hotels and anyone who says they are isn’t looking at the facts. Any way you look at it, the only difference between renting short term and renting long term is a day.