Regulating Short Term Rentals

2017 Updates

Policy Overview

On June 1st, 2016 Councilmember Tim Burgess and Mayor Ed Murray announced a proposal to prevent long-term rental units from being converted to short-term rentals, while still providing residents the flexibility to earn additional income by renting out their homes.

The measure focuses on commercial operators who use platforms, such as Airbnb and VRBO, to rent multiple properties year-round. Approximately 80 percent of existing short-term rentals in Seattle will see no new regulations.

"Property owners are shifting hundreds of homes from the long-term residential market to short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, and in doing so dangerously reduce our housing supply," said Councilmember Burgess, chair of the Council's Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee. "At the same time, Seattle homeowners offering short-term rentals in their own homes earn valuable supplemental income. These proposed regulations focus narrowly on the commercial operators that take advantage of home-sharing platforms to exacerbate our housing crisis."

Short term rentals have exploded in popularity in Seattle in recent years Short term rentals have exploded in popularity in Seattle in recent years. The map on the left is a snashot of estimated Airbnb rental reviews in Seattle from July 2013, and the one of the right is from July 2015. (Source:

Anyone may provide their primary residence plus one additional unit as a short-term rental.

"Approximately 80 percent of existing short-term rentals in Seattle will see no new regulations."

"We must protect our existing rental housing supply at a time when it is becoming harder for residents to find an affordable home in Seattle," said Mayor Ed Murray. "This proposal ensures that apartments and houses are not being used exclusively as short-term rentals, while still providing a means for homeowners to earn some extra money by occasionally renting out their property."

Consistent with current City rules, all short-term rental operators must secure a City business license tax certificate and pay all applicable taxes.

All short-term rental operators will be required to also obtain a City regulatory license. This license will require proof of liability insurance that covers the short-term rental use, a local contact number for guests, a signed declaration that the unit meets building and life safety codes, and basic safety information posted for guests in the unit.

Under the proposed regulations, all short-term rental platform companies will also need to obtain a new regulatory license with the City. The platforms will be required to give the City limited data on a quarterly basis necessary for enforcement of the proposed law.


The City Council first considered these proposals at a meeting of the Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

Proposed Code Amendments & SEPA

  1. State Environmental Policy Act Documents
  2. Proposed land use code changes
  3. Proposed requirements for a regulatory business license (Title 6)

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