Short term internet-based vacation rentals, such as AirBNB, and VRBO, are more popular than ever. Given the growing popularity of these short-term rentals, communities in Washington State with active tourism markets have been addressing how to regulate this emerging industry.

Earlier this year, Washington State legislature enacted Chapter 64.37 RCW, which provides uniform requirements regulating such short-term rentals.  Short-term rentals are defined in RCW 64.37.010 and include any lodging where a dwelling unit is offered to a guest for a fee for less than thirty (30) consecutive nights, excluding hotels, motels, or bed and breakfasts.

The three focuses of the new law are consumer safety, liability insurance coverage for the rentals, and payment of taxes.

Consumer Safety Requirements.  Short-term rentals must:

  • Provide a contact person to all short-term guests who is available to respond to inquiries at the short-term rental during the length of the guest’s stay.
  • Be in compliance with RCW 19.27.530 and any other building code rules regarding installation of carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Post the following information in a conspicuous place in each unit:
  • The street address of the short-term rental;
  • Emergency contact information for local police, fire and EMS;
  • A floor plan indicating fire exits and escape routes;
  • Maximum occupancy limits;
  • Contact information for the operator or designated contact person.

Violators who do not comply with these requirements could be issued a warning letter from the city or county in which the short-term rental is located, and multiple violations could result in a civil infraction.

Liability Insurance Coverage Requirements.  A short-term rental operator must maintain primary liability insurance to cover the short-term rental dwelling unit in the aggregate of not less than one million dollars ($1,000,000) or conduct each short-term rental transaction through a platform that provides equal or greater primary liability insurance coverage.

Taxes.  Short-term rental operators must remit all applicable local, state, and federal taxes unless the platform does this on the operator’s behalf. This includes occupancy, sales, lodging, and other taxes, fees, and assessments to which an owner or operator of a hotel or bed and breakfast is subject in the county and city in which the short-term rental is located.

In addition to this new State law, many local jurisdictions have adopted regulations which may also impact the owner’s operation, or may even restrict an owner from operating a short-term rental altogether.  These local regulations seek to address mitigation of parking, traffic, noise and other impacts, and life/safety standards commonly applied to other lodging establishments. Local regulations seek to address these issues in a variety of ways, including through added requirements related to licensing, registration, and zoning.  Make sure to check with your local jurisdiction before you list your short-term rental open for business.

Please contact Tim Schermetzler at Chmelik Sitkin & Davis P.S. if you have questions about your short-term rentals.