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Hosting on Airbnb? Here are some legal tips!

Thinking about renting your home on Airbnb? Make sure to check your local laws!

Local laws and regulations often fail to keep up with the speed of market innovation, leaving jurisdictions scrambling to balance personal liberty and community safety. This is the case with Airbnb and other short term rental sites that allow homeowners to rent out their spare rooms or entire houses to travelers for a short period of time.

From its humble beginnings of San Francisco roommates Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia renting out an air mattress in their apartment to help pay the rent to a global powerhouse disrupting the hospitality industry in under ten years, Airbnb has challenged governments around the world to rethink private property use. Some hosts are finding that their local zoning ordinances prohibit them from renting out their homes, while others are facing serious legal and financial consequences of less than ideal guest behavior.

So if you’re thinking of becoming a host on Airbnb or a similar services, municipal attorney Martin Crim has a few tips for you:

Check your local zoning ordinances

Before you begin hosting guests, check your local zoning ordinance for restrictions or requirements for short term rentals. For example, in the City of Manassas, short term rentals are allowed with restrictions on the amount of time a guest may stay. However, a few miles away in Fairfax County, short term rentals are prohibited unless your home is approved as a bed and breakfast.

Read your rental agreement / Homeowners’ Association rules

Even if your locality allows short term rentals, if you are a renter or have a Homeowners’ Association, you may be subject to additional restrictions or regulations regarding property use and guest occupancy limits.

Check with your local tax authority

Check with your local tax authority to ensure that the income you earn from renting out your property isn’t subject to any taxes beyond those handled by the service provider.

Be present

By far the most disastrous cases stemming from a short term rentals gone wrong have been those that occur when the homeowner wasn’t there. Don’t let a guest stay in your home completely unsupervised unless you are certain that they are trustworthy and will be respectful of your property, your neighbors, and any other entities involved.

The attorneys at Vanderpool, Frostick, and Nishanian, P.C. are here to help with your real estate, zoning, and land use matters – feel free to contact us!