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10 Need to Know Vacation Rental Safety Laws

Over 60 million people stayed in a vacation rental in the U.S. in 2022. For many people, vacation rental ownership provides a secure secondary or even primary income to satisfy the demand. Rental properties can be easy to generate some passive income with the help of rental platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway, and VRBO.

While rental ownership can be an incredible opportunity, it’s important to remember: With great opportunity comes great responsibility. A lot goes into being a vacation rental owner, and operating a rental property comes with its share of challenges, including being aware of all the ways to legally protect investments and other assets.

Here at SaferVRS, our goal is to simplify the process by educating you on the potential liabilities of rental ownership from a safety and loss prevention perspective. Our services help you navigate a complex matrix of laws, rules, and safety regulations to ensure your property operates safely and legally.

Knowing where to start can often be overwhelming. We’ve created this guide to unwind some of the complexities of rental safety laws!


How to Find What Laws Apply to Your Property

The best place to start is by contacting local city or government officials. Much of the information may be available on the local government's website, but it never hurts to visit them in person to clarify any details you are unclear about.

Additionally, you may find it helpful to join local vacation rental business associations and groups for homeowners and vacation rental owners. These groups often can provide lots of insights into local regulations and any changes that occur.

It may also be helpful to consult with an attorney specializing in local real estate. They will be able to provide legal advice and ensure you comply with all the local regulations and laws that apply to your property.


Specific Laws & Regulations for Vacation Property Owners

Your vacation home is governed by laws and regulations that extend beyond local jurisdiction. As an owner, you’ll need to be aware of the laws on a local, state, and federal level. You should always take into account the following considerations.


Local Zoning and Land Use Laws

As a vacation property owner, one of the first and most important things you can do is educate yourself on the local zoning and land use laws. These regulations determine how different types of land can be used. This means these laws dictate which types of properties can be used for short-term rentals and exactly what zones they are permitted in.

Some areas have restrictions on short-term vacation rentals, so it’s important to really investigate this before listing a property. Failure to do this can result in hefty fines and even legal action.


Business Licensing and Permits

Before renting your property, you need to check with your local jurisdiction to see what is required of you in terms of business licenses and permits. This can vary depending on your location, including a vacation rental license, a business license, or other rental permit.

These licenses and permits are required as a means of helping local governments track and collect appropriate taxes and provide them with legal records of your business. Failure to obtain the proper licenses and permits can result in hefty fines and penalties, including legal action.


Building and Safety Codes

As a vacation rental owner, the safety of your renters should always be your top priority. This means that compliance with building and safety codes is non-negotiable.

You want to conduct frequent safety checks to ensure your property meets all fire safety standards, has proper exits, and complies with all local building codes. Safety measures should include routinely checking your fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.

Your jurisdiction may require regular safety inspections, so it’s important to ensure your property is always current on all safety requirements to protect your guests.


Health and Safety Regulations

In addition to safety, the health of your guests should be a top priority for you as a vacation rental owner. Many local jurisdictions have regulations regarding cleaning and sanitation procedures you need to be aware of. At times, these may change, as happened in the recent Coronavirus pandemic, so it’s important to be knowledgeable about current regulations.

In addition to cleaning and sanitation regulations, you may encounter other health-related provisions for issues such as pest control, waste disposal, ADA accessibility and clean drinking water. In addition to checking smoke detectors, you should also routinely check carbon monoxide detectors.

It can also be helpful to provide guests with information about emergency protocols, local healthcare facilities, and contact information or phone numbers for local authorities and emergency officials. Including this in their rental paperwork, and posted on a central location, such as the refrigerator, can be crucial in an emergency.


Occupancy Limits and Rental Duration

You always want to be aware of any limits on occupancy and rental duration for your property. Some municipalities have strict limits on the number of guests allowed at a dwelling unit at any given time. You will want to investigate the transient occupancy vacation rental rules and short-term rental regulations as they apply to single-family homes.

Additionally, you may find that your area has minimum or maximum stay requirements. Not abiding by these restrictions can result in hefty fines and legal repercussions, so always be knowledgeable about the limitations of your property and its guests.


Fair Housing Laws

As a vacation rental owner, you need to be familiar with the Fair Housing Act. This Civil Rights Act originated in 1968 and prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability. As an owner, you cannot legally refuse to rent to someone based on these factors.

It’s also important to know any local fair housing laws that apply in your rental jurisdiction. Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal action.


Taxation and Reporting Obligations

Like any other business, operating a vacation rental requires paying taxes. It’s important to ensure you comply with local, state, and federal tax requirements. Any income generated from renting out your property is considered taxable income.

You may also be required to collect state and local sales taxes, occupancy taxes, or other local rental taxes. It’s important to work with a qualified tax professional to ensure you’re collecting and remitting taxes correctly.


Insurance and Liability Considerations

Unfortunately, accidents happen. As a vacation rental owner, you should always protect yourself and your rental unit with proper insurance coverage.

Your insurance needs may include liability coverage, property damage coverage, and even specific types of coverage for natural events that may be more prevalent in your area. To ensure you are covered for all the challenges specific to your property, be sure to find an insurance agent who is well-versed in vacation rental insurance coverage.


Noise and Nuisance Regulations

As a rental owner, you’re almost guaranteed to encounter a tenant who attracts a noise complaint. Due to this, you need to be aware of any specific noise ordinances in the area.

Be sure to clearly communicate in your rental agreement about the expectations of noise levels and be prepared to address any complaints that arise quickly and professionally.


Privacy Laws and Guest Disclosures

It goes without saying that guests have a right to privacy during their stay. However, owners are not always aware of the extent to which this applies. Becoming familiar with privacy laws helps you understand the importance of obtaining consent before entering a property hosting a guest, even for reasons like maintenance or inspections.

It’s also important to disclose any security measures to ensure guests feel safe and informed during their stay. Intrusive surveillance should never be used at a vacation rental property. Different areas may have different privacy laws, so it’s important to investigate those in your area as well.


Let Safer VRS Help you Navigate Vacation Rentals

Knowing all the ins and outs of the vacation rental industry can be hard. Having an experienced guide helping you prepare for and prevent any losses and subsequent legal issues can prove to be an invaluable resource.

Here at SaferVRS, we offer a variety of courses to help you navigate the legal complexities of vacation rental ownership. The best protection is prevention, so contact us today and protect the future of your vacation rental business!


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Don’t rely on copy and paste answers. Your properties and guests deserve personalized attention to ensure your going above and beyond in your safety measures. In this call, we’ll discuss your concerns, establish solutions, and learn how you can mitigate risks.

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