Short-Term Rentals

In December 2017, the City of Seattle adopted new regulations for short-term rentals. This impacts short-term rental operators, platform (e.g., Airbnb, VRBO) and, in some cases, bed and breakfast operators.

What is a short-term rental?

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.

What is a short-term rental regulatory license and do I need one?

Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, if you are operating a short-term rental in Seattle, you must have a short-term rental regulatory license (aka operator's license). The Department of Finance and Administrative Services issues short-term rental regulatory licenses, which are valid for one year. This license is in addition to a Seattle business license.

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.

How do I get a short-term rental regulatory license?

We are still working to implement short-term rental regulations and do not yet have this information available. Please check back in late 2018.

How much will the license cost?

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

How many short-term rentals may I operate?

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 for more information. The City Council also created a summary table and reference map to illustrate the limits.

What requirements must I meet to rent out my units?

  • 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 must appear on any listing advertising the property for use as a short-term rental.
  • 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.

I operate a bed and breakfast. How do these rules affect me?

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.

What is a short-term rental platform?

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.

Other common questions

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, by Jan. 1, 2019, you and your unit(s) must meet the City's short-term rental 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. 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.