What Is It?
Short-term rentals are a type of lodging sometimes called vacation rentals. A house, condo, or apartment (or a part of one) that is rented for a fee for fewer than 30 consecutive nights is a short-term rental. Examples of short-term rentals are those rented through platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO. The City’s Land Use Code (effective January 7, 2018) and the City Tax and License Codes (effective in January 2019) regulate short-term rentals.
This page addresses the Land Use Code rules for short-term rentals, as adopted by City Council in Ordinance 125483 in December 2017.
What It Isn’t
This section does not cover:
- Rooms or apartments rented out for more than a month at a time
- Traditional bed and breakfasts
- Hotels and motels
- Rules about business licensing, taxes, limits on number of units, and other provisions for short-term rentals that are in effect starting in 2019.
Rules to Follow
Short-term rentals ARE allowed in:
- Most structures established as dwelling units
Short-term rentals are NOT allowed in:
- RVs, tents, garages, boats, and other spaces that are not considered dwelling units
- Floating on-water residences, waterfront residences, and other areas where lodging activities are prohibited by the Shoreline Code
- Dwellings in commercial or industrial buildings permitted as “Caretaker’s quarters”
- Live-work units
Requirements for all short-term rentals:
- No more than eight people total may occupy a dwelling unit (with some exceptions)
- You must meet the parking, noise, housing and building maintenance, and other code requirements that apply to your property
- If the short-term rental is not within your own home, you must register with the City’s Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance program (RRIO)
- If you serve food to your guests, you must meet all applicable state and county health regulations
Licensing and tax requirements:
- You must have a business license tax certificate from the Finance & Administrative Services Department to operate a short-term rental in the City of Seattle.
- Starting in January 2019, all short-term rentals must meet new requirements for a regulatory license and nightly taxes. See the business licensing rules and taxation rules (links below) for more information.
- The state Department of Health may also require you to get a transient accommodation license.
Operators of short-term rentals that existed before January 7, 2018, have one year to come into compliance with some of the new land use code requirements. Contact SDCI for information on how to demonstrate that you were operating a unit as an STR before the new rules went into effect.
Read the Code
Find more information about the adopted legislation on the City Council’s webpage.
If you receive notice of a Land Use Code or Housing Code violation and don’t fix the problem in a timely manner, we may fine you $150 to $500 a day. We will also charge you for inspections.