Where do I find out local laws about having an Airbnb at my home?

I’d like to know if being an Airbnb host is legal in my neighborhood without calling too much attention to myself. Who do I contact? Where do I look?

First question for you. Are you located in the United States? I ask because this forum is comprised of members from all over the world.

Yes, I’m in the US. Sorry. Good question!

It’s gonna be hard to find out info “without drawing too much attention”.

Virtually everywhere it is “legal” to do AirBnb; although some cities/counties/states require some sort of licensing. Don’t try to fly under that radar, it makes us all look bad. Some cities/counties/states also levy various kinds of taxes on us, varying from place to place. Some apartment complexes are no longer allowing renters to sub-let heir places for short-term rentals; condo associations are also prohibiting short-term sub-lets also…

I would start with your city/town/county Clerk’s offices. I bring up county because here in Florida, for example, various counties have different “bed taxes”. The good thing is that AirBnb pays all of our taxes for use – not everywhere do they do that.

Just be up front and say – "I’m trying to find out what, if anything, I have to do if I want to start an AirBnb at my house.

You should be able to find out just about everything you need to know by going to your city’s municipal website and doing some digging.

Find out what the zoning is where you live and read the code to see if there is anything that would seem to ban rentals of the type you want to do.

Find out if your city considers rentals like you want to do a “business” and if so, what type of license you will need.

If you plan on serving food, find out what you can and can’t do with or without a commercial kitchen. For instance, I can serve anything that comes premade (cereal & milk, store bought bagels & cream cheese, frozen waffles), but I can’t do any cooking for my guests because I don’t have a commercial kitchen.

Find out what the occupancy tax (transient tax, hotel tax) is for your municipality and/or state if Airbnb doesn’t collect and remit it for you.

Your biggest hurdle may be your home owner’s insurance, and this is where you may need to tread very lightly. Many carrier’s will drop you immediately like a hot potato if you tell them you’re doing Airbnb, so when you call them be sure to say you have NOT started doing this and just want to know if you could if you wanted to.

Depending on where you live, though this all sounds rather onerous, it might not be, and you may not run into many issues at all. Large cities and popular business/tourist destinations have acted to limit Airbnb (think NY, Boston, San Francisco, LA here in the states), but many, many smaller places have not had time to deal with/update their statues yet, so there may not be much on the books to limit you.

If your home is mortgaged, read your mortgage documents. Some note holders will not allow you to run certain types of commerce from your home. If they get wind that you are, they may well have the right to call the entire note due immediately. How would they find out you ask? Let’s say you’re able to get a new home owner’s insurance policy that has a B&B rider to give you the coverage you need. If your home is mortgaged, most likely you need to provide your mortgage company with a copy of your current insurance.


Ok so where I live in Michigan I am totally aware of what is allowed and what is not. You can find most of this in your town or township zoning regulations. There are so many variations. Some government agencies prohibit short term rentals STR’s to 30 days so you cannot rent short term. Others allow them. I highly suggest you actually call in to your zoning administrator. They are working for you. You pay his/her salary by your taxes. So issues where I live are whether you are renting out your entire house or a portion. I am allowed legally to rent out the upstairs while living on the main floor. But our township does not allow short term rental. That would be a zoning violation of up to $500 per incident. Then you have state issues. In Michigan, but certainly not all states and not in Colorado where my daughter lives, we have a tax principal residence exemption. So where you reside when not on vacation or away on business you receive a lowest tax rate. But if your house is deemed a vacation rental by federal law (whole house rental of 15 days per year or more) then you loose your PRE and your taxes in Michigan go up to 2X. (a huge hit) So check your state laws to see how your property is taxed and check your zoning laws. You can find all of this stuff online but I would not hesitate to go into your local government and ask. Believe me they have been asked this before and will give you an honest answer. (Well most likely). So a lot of people do not show the outside of their Airbnb property to not help local zoning enforcement officers from identifying your property. I show mine because we won before the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Where are you located?

Good luck, Curt

Sorry but the fact that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself indicates to me that you’re going to do it anyway. Which isn’t advisable.

The fact is that Airbnb isn’t ‘illegal’ anywhere. In some places, short term rentals (which can include Airbnb) are not allowed. There are no laws ‘against Airbrb’.

A quick Google search should tell you everything you need to know.