Short-Term Rentals

Get licensed to operate short-term rentals

If you operate short-term rentals (STRs) in Seattle, you must have both a business license tax certificate and a regulatory license for STRs by Dec. 15, 2019.  After Dec. 15, the City will begin enforcing the STR license requirements. Enforcement could include fines and other penalties. Moreover, short-term rental platforms (Airbnb, VRBO, and others) may not allow unlicensed operators of STR units to continue accepting reservations after Dec. 15. If you operate a short-term rental unit in Seattle, and you have not completed the licensing process, we encourage you to do so immediately.

1.      If you have not already done so, begin by obtaining a City of Seattle business license tax certificate. (Allow 48 hours after you first apply to proceed to applying for the STR regulatory license.) You may do this online at www.Filelocal-wa.gov.

2.      Next, please determine if your STR property is subject to Seattle's Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance. If so, register your property with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections prior to applying for a regulatory license for short-term rental operators.

3.      Finally, apply for an STR regulatory license through the Seattle Services Portal. If you do not already have a Seattle Services Portal account, you will be required to create one. You may also submit a paper application, however, please note that paper applications take longer to process. The fee for an STR operator regulatory license is $75 per unit and it must be renewed annually.

If you are not able to complete the licensing process online, please contact customer service at 206-386-1267 or STR@seattle.gov prior to mailing in a paper application.  You may download and print a paper application here.

Helpful information about Seattle's STR Ordinance

The City's short-term rental ordinance limits the number of units that any one short-term rental operator can operate. (An operator can be a single person, a marital unit, a group of people, or a corporate entity such as an LLC.) The licensing process requires you to include the addresses of specific units to your operator license.

Most short-term rental operators may operate two units: the operator's primary residence and a secondary unit, one in which the operator does not live. The primary unit may be an attached or detached accessory dwelling unit (ADU or DADU) or an "in-law" apartment contained within a larger housing unit. Rented rooms without their own kitchens and bathrooms do not count towards an operator's two units and do not require an additional license. They are covered by a STR operator's primary or secondary residence license. (As an example, if there are three rooms in your house that you offer for rent on an STR platform, you need to obtain an STR license for your primary residence, and all three of these rooms are covered by that single license.)

For operators who have been legally operating short-term rental units prior to Sept. 30, 2017, some special provisions apply. If you operate one or more legacy units (consistent with the limitations of the STR ordinance, you will be required to upload documentation demonstrating its use as a short-term rental within the 12-month period prior to Sept. 30, 2017. This documentation is often referred to as a rental registry. Please have a digital copy (.pdf, .xls or .xlsx, or .doc) of your rental registry ready to upload as you are applying for an operator license.

What do I need before I apply?

Short-term rental operator's license
Bed-and-breakfast operator's license
  • Valid Seattle business license tax certificate number (business license/customer number) If you applied for a new business license tax certificate, please allow 48 hours processing time before applying for the short-term rental regulatory license.
  • Washington state transient accommodation license number
  • A copy of your Washington state transient accommodation license (required to upload)
  • Must adhere to Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) zoning requirements for a bed-and-breakfast
Platform (e.g., Airbnb or VRBO)
  • Valid Seattle business license tax certificate (business license/customer number) if there is an office in Seattle.  If you applied for a new business license tax certificate, please allow 48 hours processing time before applying for the short-term rental regulatory license.

Platform reporting requirements

In October, platforms must begin submitting reports and fees to the City reflecting data as of Sept. 1, 2019.

FrequencyDue dateWhat's due
Monthly 15th of each month for the previous month's data Report of all licensed operators, including listed unit and URL
Quarterly Jan. 15, April 15, July 15 and Oct. 15
(15 calendar days after the end of each quarter)
Number of STR/B&B operators and number of nights booked
Quarterly Jan. 30, April 30, July 30, Oct. 30
(30 calendar days after the end of each quarter)
Licensing fees

Frequently asked questions

A short-term rental is a type of lodging where a home, or part of a home, is rented for a fee for fewer than 30 consecutive nights. Examples of short-term rentals are those rented through platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO.

Platforms are companies that facilitate rentals and charge a fee for the facilitation. Ordinance 125490 defines a platform as "a person or entity that provides a means through which an operator may offer a dwelling unit, or portion thereof, for short-term rental use, or which a bed and breakfast operator may offer a bed and breakfast unit and from which the person or entity financially benefits." An example of a platform is an online rental service like Airbnb or VRBO.

Publishing a short-term rental advertisement without charging a fee for facilitating accommodations does not make the publisher a short-term rental platform.

If you are operating a short-term rental (STR) in Seattle, you will need two types of licenses from the City of Seattle:

  • First, you must have a current Seattle business license tax certificate. This is the license that almost all businesses operating in Seattle must have to be in compliance with municipal law. If you have any questions about obtaining or renewing a business license tax certificate, you can email tax@seattle.gov or call 206-684-8484.
  • Second, you must obtain a short-term rental regulatory license (aka operator's license). Your business license tax certificate (mentioned above) must be renewed and paid up to date, before you can proceed to applying for this STR regulatory license. The City of Seattle began issuing STR regulatory licenses, which are valid for one year, on Jan. 2, 2019.

Short-term rentals are also subject to new requirements and rules in the Land Use Code. Contact the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections with questions related to the Land Use Code.

An STR that is neither a primary residence nor a "portion" of that residence-must be registered and compliant with the Seattle Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO).

Please use the online system, the Seattle Services Portal, to apply for a short-term rental regulatory license — whether you are an operator, a platform or a bed-and-breakfast operator.

The Seattle Services Portal is a one-stop website where you can conduct many types of business with the City of Seattle. This portal was developed at the request of City customers who wanted one login and one account to conduct business with more than one City department.

If you need help using the Seattle Services Portal, refer to the short-term rental online application help guide. If you have additional questions about short-term rental licensing, email str@seattle.gov or call 206-386-1267.

City staff is focused on outreach and education about the short-term rental law, and we are here to help with your efforts to get into compliance.

The new license will cost $75 per unit and will be valid for one year. You must also have a Seattle business license tax certificate.

If you have an operator's license, you may operate up to two dwelling units you own as short-term rentals. If you operate two dwelling units as STRs, one must be your primary residence. The other may be located in another dwelling unit you own. You may rent out the entire dwelling unit or just a portion of it, such as a bedroom or an accessory apartment.

There are limited exceptions to the maximum number of units, including some exceptions for short-term rentals legally operated before September 2017. See Ordinance 125490 and refer to this summary table and reference map for more information on the limits.

  • The rules in Ordinance 125490 defines the owner of a short-term rental property as the "operator." An operator may hire a property management company to list and manage short-term rentals, but the operator's license must be in the owner's name.
  • The short-term rental operator license number (issued by the City) must appear on any listing advertising the property for use as a short-term rental. The City has proposed a director's rule that will allow, during the first 120 days following the effective date of Ordinance 125490, online listings to not include an operator's license number assuming the operator is actively applying for a license (and the City is processing that application).
  • The operator must follow new operating standards, such as posting basic safety information and providing a local contact number for guests in the unit.
  • The building must meet current building and safety codes.

Refer to Ordinance 125490 for more information.

If you operate a bed-and-breakfast AND you use a short-term rental platform like Airbnb and VRBO to list your property, you will need a bed-and-breakfast operator's license. The Department of Finance and Administrative Services will issue this license. The license will cost $75 and will be valid for one year.

Other common questions

If you are unable to complete the licensing process online, please contact customer service at 206-386-1267 or STR@seattle.gov prior to mailing in the paper application.  You can download and print the paper application here.

If you already have a Seattle business license tax certificate for your short-term rental business, it will meet our short-term rental regulations. You are still required to obtain the short-term rental operator license to legally operate your short-term rental(s) in Seattle.

Yes. However, after Jan. 1, 2019, the City expects operators to be actively working to meet the City's short-term rental requirements. By the end of the 120-day implementation period proposed by Director's Rule STR-7, operators and their units should be licensed and meeting the City's requirements.

If you are operating your primary residence as a short-term rental, your home must meet basic habitability requirements, but you do not need to register your home with RRIO or have your unit inspected.

If you have a dedicated short-term rental unit (i.e., not your primary residence or a portion of your primary residence), you must register that unit in and comply with the RRIO program. Dedicated units include accessory dwelling units in the same structure or on the same property as your primary residence. Visit the RRIO website for more information.

If you operate a short-term rental without a short-term rental regulatory license, or if you use a platform to offer a bed and breakfast unit without a bed and breakfast operator license, you may be subject to a $500 penalty for the first violation. Second and subsequent violations are subject to $1,000 penalties.

If you operate a business in Seattle without a Seattle business license tax certificate, you may be subject to a $513 citation.

As the City begins enforcing short-term rental regulations, it will work with operators to bring them into compliance before taking a more punitive approach.

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and a detached accessory dwelling unit (DADU) are defined in SMC 23.84A.032 and SMC 23.84A.032, respectively, under residential use. When used as a short-term rental on the same parcel as a primary residence, an ADU would not be included in the short-term operator licensing fee paid for the primary residence. Likewise, when used as a short-term rental on the same parcel as a primary residence, a DADU would not be included in the short-term operator licensing fee paid for the primary residence.

An ADU is considered a separate dwelling unit and would require a license to be considered a short-term rental. A DADU is considered a separate dwelling unit and would require a license to operate as a short-term rental.

SMC 6.600 will not apply to a right of occupancy associated with a bona fide earnest money agreement to purchase or contract sale of the dwelling unit or the property of which it is a part. This arrangement is commonly referred to as a rent back.

In March 2018, Governor Inslee signed into law HB 2015, which changes some of the rules for lodging excise taxes. Visit the Department of Revenue's website for more information regarding Washington state requirements for short-term rentals.

As a result of HB 2015, in June 2018 the City Council repealed Ordinance 125442, which would have imposed a separate Seattle city tax on short-term rentals.

If you would like to make a complaint or provide feedback regarding short-term rentals, follow the instructions below to submit a service request to the City of Seattle.

  1. Access the Request a City Service page.
  2. Use the drop-down menu or scroll down to select "Business Related Complaint."
  3. Enter the address the complaint/feedback is about, then click "Next Step."
  4. Select "Short-term rental" in the complaint description list. Enter details about the complaint in the field "Briefly describe the incident."
  5. Enter your contact information, then click "Next Step."
  6. If applicable, enter additional comments and/or add attachments. Click "Next Step."
  7. Review the information you entered, then click "Submit."