Township permit for short term AirBnb hosts

So the township I’m in has finally caught up and is demanding all short-term Airbnb hosts that rent out less than 30 days a month to have their property inspected and pay an annual permit, first year $500, $200 annually after that. There are a number of regulations, like that each bedroom needs to have an emergency exit. That there needs to be a host living within 30 min etc, etc.
For those of you that have a similar experience, how have you dealt with this? In particular, the emergency exits? To actually build some emergency ladders will be too costly. What I’m wondering is if foldable emergency ladders kept under beds are generally acceptable.
I know… contact the town clerk for info etc. Believe me they are quick to issue regulations but not helpful for us trying to follow them.


Even if someone dealt with something similar, they aren’t going to have the same enforcement officials.

While this may be stressful to deal with now, ultimately this will benefit hosts who can comply. If you can pass inspection and other listings can’t, some of the competition will be culled. I’m hoping my city passes similar regulations.


I’d be curious exactly what their regulations say. You can buy fire escape ladders for very little, under $100, though I’m not recommending that.

In our jurisdiction we just need two exits from each room, one of which can be the window. But there are laws here on how high that window can be and its dimensions.

I did look into providing something more. I talked with someone at our fire department and they advised against those chain/rung ladders that just sort of hang and for which you need to get your feet into while they’re loosely hanging.

Much better, she said, are those that have ‘standoffs’ that stay against the wall so that you can easily get your feet into them.

The truth is that you can likely comply with the letter of the law for not much money, like in the hundred dollar ballpark per room. You might/might not be interested in how truly effective such a fire ladder will be and how much more will it cost to install something that people can more easily use.

So, 1) Do you just wish to comply with the law (no judgments)? or 2) Are you looking to provide something that is easy to use?

I recommend Googling home fire escape ladders to read up on this, and talking with your fire department on anything they might recommend or recommend against. They’re unlikely to point you to a specific product but might give you their thoughts on do’s and dont’s or at least pro’s and cons… You might also talk with your insurer for any thoughts they have, if any.

I assume that you’ll also need to provide a ‘map’ on each bedroom door that shows the primary and alternative evacuation paths. It can be useful to provide additional instructions, like feeling the door for heat before opening it, where/how to use the ladder, etc.

At one point I was considering this (~$500): Fire Escapes Systems - Offering a Complete Line of Portable Chain/Rung, Rigid Aluminum and Fixed Fire Escape Ladders

Thank you, really helpful. In ref to fire ladders, I’ve got to do some reading on this subject. Ideally, a combination of ease of use, safety, and yes, price come into my equation.
Yes, we have to provide maps with exit instructions, etc. A good idea to provide the extra info you suggested.
Safety is one thing, then we just have to see how stringent those inspectors are.

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Thanks for the link too!

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I’m guessing that the inspectors won’t be all that stringent. After all, it appears they have not given you guidelines.

It just seems to me that if you’re going to do this, to do it well and to have an overall fire prevention plan, that would also include (whether rules or guidance somewhere):

  1. no open flames in home (rule),
  2. no grills, fire pits, etc. within x feet of anything combustible (‘x’ often being at least six feet (and look overhead for trees or anything combustible there).
  3. fire extinguishers prominently placed,
  4. no smoking in home (rule),
  5. nothing combustible within 3’ of cooktop (think drapery but also newspapers, things people put down there, decorations),
  6. we have a flashlight in every bedroom, in the bedroom table (which table? The RIGHT table),
  7. guidance in your home manual ( we suggest as a best practice to always bring out a lid or baking sheet when you cook to snuff out flames when cooking, not to leave cooktop unattended (these are not ‘rules’ but shared best practices).

We test smoke alarm system with every turnover (required by our insurer Proper).

For other safety tips look here for a comprehensive checklist: Is Your Property Safe? Take the Challenge -- A 75-Point Safety Checklist

One thing we’ve found useful though perhaps not practical for everyone (I live below the unit) is that about two hours after people have checked in I purposely trigger the fire alarm, which is really startlingly loud. [Our smoke detectors are interlinked, so that if any alarm is triggered anywhere in the property, upstairs or downstairs, all alarms go off, with flashing lights and verbal warnings.]

Then I show up at the front door (I have a hard hat on, a flashlight and reflective vest, plus a pea-less whistle that further gets their attention) and ask them if they know what to do. Most don’t.

I explain it’s just a fire drill (like on a cruise ship; this is like rule #23 in our rules, but guests just don’t read!). I then go through the checklist, which is IN THE HOUSE MANUAL, that I tell them to read FIRST THING (few do).

We SHOW them the alternate fire evacuation plans, a suggested meeting point in front of the house, and alternative meeting points if the front of the house is blocked, if the nearby school has been bombed or otherwise unavailable, etc. [Sometimes the children cry, but they need to be prepared.]. I explain best practices on preventing fires. All this just takes just 45 minutes or so.

I’m of course kidding with all this about the fire drill.

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Our apartments have had permits for years so my information could be pretty out of date but it depends on your area. Your local authority may have a page on their website showing requirements - if not look for one in your state or region as they will probably be the same regarding the basics.

And the basics are really just common sense safety issues - fire extinguishers regularly inspected, smoke alarms, emergency exits (windows count here), provision of emergency services numbers etc.

One requirement here had presumably been carried over from the dark ages - that each rental must have a landline. At every annual inspection, I told the inspectors that it was a ridiculous rule and they agreed and the rentals passed inspection anyway. :slight_smile:

It will vary a lot depending on the region and the authority but here we have to show our up-to-date STR insurance policy in order to get an initial license and annually thereafter for renewal.

As @KKC said, one of the great things about this is that it will cull those rentals that were flying under the radar and operating illegally. Another plus is that in some areas, your STR insurance can be lowered a little when you can show that all safety in your rental is fully approved by the local authority.


Thank you! All really useful information. I have been trying to find the specifics but so far have only found the requirements on their website. Really don’t mind making my house safer but don’t have a big budget right now.
Luckily no mention of a landline! A lot of it makes sense as stated above, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms in each bedroom, fire exit maps, a nearby host, and yes, each bedroom needs a fire exit. That is the one that needs working on, my house has two stories so a window is surely not enough.
And they do enforce the license. A neighbor on the same road who rents out on a regular basis got fined.

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I like your list, will copy that!

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It might be useful to copy and paste their requirements here.

I’m kind of surprised if they’re requiring fire ladders, and doing so without guidance.

Your post says:

So in our jurisdiction, we need two exits: one is the door, the other is the window that meets the requirements of the building code.

Make sure that you need more than this.

I had a neighbor who was advertising on Airbnb without a license from the city. He had an order pinned to his door that if he didn’t stop advertising (and renting) immediately he would be fined $500 PER DAY!

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Ok, so as advised I’m posting the regulations here. Be warned, it’s lengthy! But maybe helpful to others.

"Compliance with the following standards:

There shall be one functioning smoke detector in each sleeping room and at least one functioning smoke detector in at least one other room, one functioning fire extinguisher in the kitchen and in one other designated location, and at least one carbon monoxide detector. The short-term rental shall in all respects be in compliance with the New York State Fire and Building Codes.

Exterior doors shall be operational and all passageways to exterior doors shall be clear and unobstructed.

Electrical systems shall be serviceable with no visual defects or unsafe conditions.

All fireplaces, fireplace inserts, or other fuel-burning heaters and furnaces shall be vented and properly installed.

Chimneys shall be inspected by a professional and a report made to the Code Enforcement Officer on an annual basis.

Each sleeping room shall have an exterior exit that opens directly to the outside, or an emergency escape or rescue window.
Affidavit certifications shall be valid during the term of the short-term rental permit, or until modifications requiring a building permit are made, or until the Town Code Enforcement Officer has reason to believe further inspections are warranted, at which point the inspections shall take place at a time suitable to the Code Enforcement Officer and the owner. If relevant circumstances on the property change or for any reason the certification is or becomes inaccurate, a new certification shall be submitted. Under any circumstances, inspections shall be made by the Code Enforcement Officer at least once every year.

The Town Board may make provision, from time to time by resolution, for payment of an additional fee upon any re-inspections.

A property map showing the location of buildings required parking, and, if not served by a public sewer, the location of the septic system and leach field. An accurate, suitable plan need not be prepared by a professional. Property map must be posted in a visible location in the short-term rental.

Provide a safety/egress plan, to be posted in a visible location in the short-term rental.

Provide a garbage-removal plan (garbage receptacles will not be left out for more than 48 hours).

For non-owner-occupied short-term rentals, the owner must designate a host and provide the name, address, telephone number, and email address, who shall be responsible, and authorized, to act on the owner’s behalf to promptly remedy any violation of these standards or the permit. The host may be the owner, or an agent designated by the owner to serve as a contact person.

A statement that the applicant has met and will continue to comply with the standards of these regulations and the permit.

A copy of the insurance binder and a paid receipt is required.

Any fee which has been set by the Town Board by resolution."

Thank you.

So there’s no requirement for a fire ladder here:

Now, the question is whether your bedroom windows are properly emergency exits.

In New York State the general law is the windows:

  1. Have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 sq. ft., and
  2. Have a minimum opening height of 24", and
  3. Have the bottom of the clear opening no more than 44" from the floor.

Source: Section 1030, p 195: 2020 Fire Code of New York State

Out of an abundance of caution let me ask:

  1. Can you please tell us what town in New York State your short-term rental is located in?
  2. Is your short-term rental in a basement? If so, does it have a window well?
  3. Is your short-term rental in a single family home?
  4. What floor is your short-term rental on?
  5. If not a single family dwelling, was the building constructed after July 2009? [Such buildings need an interconnected smoke alarm.]

I’m just being cautious in asking for the name of the town because the regulation says:

Please note I’m no expert, just Googling this.

Another source of information/guidance for you might be your insurer – assuming that you’re properly insured for this type of commercial use of your home. If your insurance carrier does not offer such liability insurance (i.e., you’re going ‘rogue’) upon hearing your inquiry your insurer might not renew your policy or worse (I don’t know if they could cancel it given the ‘uncertainty’ of your use of the property). We use Proper insurance; they’re expensive.

Please make sure that your short-term rental is in all other ways in compliance with the building and fire code, inside and out.

For example (not an exhaustive list), in most jurisdictions there should be no permanent extension cords (though I’m doubtful you’d get cited for this).

Stairs, inside and out, should have handrails if there are four or more steps per this 2017 document (in Worcester MA it’s three steps – check to be sure what the current requirements are where you live). Guardrails have to be spaced so that a sphere of a certain size cannot pass through them (especially important if children are guests).

Carbon monoxide [CO] detectors are also required in NY State. [I’d get one even if not required; you can get a combination smoke/CO detector).

Smoke detectors must be less than ten years old. Get hard-wired or the new sealed ones that don’t have removable batteries (one more hassle).

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Yes, many thanks for all recommendations about this. I am probably not the only one grappling with this. I’m in the northern part of the Catskill township area.

Yes, absolutely that has been a given for me, to have liability insurance covering rentals, plus umbrella insurance, also something I recommend.
I do already have a CO detector and several smoke alarms, good advice again, got have to check their age.

I think the bedroom windows have the proper size, but two bedrooms are on the second floor. Got handrails in place. Can’t imagine anyone jumping from the second story without hurting themselves. Will probably opt for a 2 story fire escape ladder and keep it in each room but got to check if they accept this before purchasing.
No part of the basement is included. It’s a single family home built in the late 70s. The rental part is usually the entire home.

Thanks again!

In Worcester MA the Fire Department says that they will get anywhere in Worcester within four minutes. So, the key is prevention, communication and, to satisfy the Inspector, the proper window. Unless it’s somehow very dire, they won’t/shouldn’t jump.

If you aren’t required to provide a ladder, I would think twice, not because it’s a bad idea to take a bet-and-suspenders approach, but because if you’re going to do it, you want to ‘do it right.’ The cheap chain and rung ladders, per the person I talked with at the Fire Department, are not worthwhile. So ‘something good’ might be expensive and you might have other priorities.

Also, if you have it you need to communicate it well. It has to be easy to use. Some escape ladders are one-use only, so you can’t test those. Talk to your fire department about what they recommend. I’d walk through the Breezeway 75-point checklist (above) first to decide if the fire ladder is really your #1 safety priority.

Our fire department said that one of the most important things to do – which is not here required by the building code – is adequate lighting inside and out. So we have LED lights that are on 24/7 in the hallway leading to the evacuation path, and outside solar motion-sensitive LED lights, like this (they have a smaller size and a larger one):

For steps or on a path:

This is really helpful, thank you, good idea with the lighting too.

The one foldable ladder advertises as a “flame resistant, durable and sturdy, foldable ladder, tested to 1,000 pounds, tangle-free design fast and easy to deploy in an emergency with anti-slip rungs, No assembly or tools are required; 5-year warranty.” But yes, will check with the fire dep.

I did look back at the site I linked and did see a $135 ladder that seemed like it would fit the specs you cite, and another $50 (!) Kidde one-use fire ladder at Amazon/Wal-Mart. So it looks like there might be some reasonably priced AND seemingly useable standoff ladders out there.

I’d be appreciative if you’d come back to us and let us know what what your fire department suggests on this AND other fire prevention and escape strategies/tools AND communications.

Sure, will do that if that can be helpful to others.

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