Guide to Laws for Airbnbs and Other Short Term Rentals in the U.S.

Closeup Of Old Signboard Bed & Breakfast AirBnB VRBOWhat is a “short term rental” or “vacation rental”?

“Short-term rental” (sometimes abbreviated as “STR”) or “short term lease” generally means renting a unit, like an apartment or house, for a relatively period of time. The specific time period varies by city or other governing body (such as a Homeowners Association), but is usually defined as less than 30 or 31 days, but can be as long as 3 months or even 6 months.

Any rental for longer than the short-term rental period is a standard or long-term rental.

People often rent short term for vacations or business trips. The most popular sites for advertising short term rentals include AirBnB and VRBO/HomeAway. Many people often simply refer to short term rentals as “an Airbnb rental.”

I own property. Can I rent it out on AirBnB?

The legal situation for short term rentals is changing rapidly, and we intend to keep this page as up to date as possible.

Many cities restrict or even completely ban short-term rentals. Of those that allow them, most require you to register your unit and also to collect a “hotel tax” (Airbnb and VRBO have agreements with many cities to do this automatically). Some cities only allow STRs in “owner-occupied” properties or units, banning “whole-home” listings. Others allow STRs only in certain neighborhoods such as commercial zones and not residential zones.

Cities may also consider “hosting” a short-term rental as a business so you would likely need to get a “business license” with the city.

Here are some specific rules for various cities around the U.S.:

  • New York state (including NYC) – You may not rent out any unit or portion of any unit short term unless you are also living there during that time. It is now even illegal to advertise such listings that don’t comply, with hefty fines starting at $1,000.
  • Chicago, Illinois – you must register with the city, collect hotel tax of 4.5%, maintain certain types of insurance, maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and provide soap and clean linens.
  • Boston, Massachusetts – you must register with the city and have an inspection done by the city, and you may need to collect hotel taxes. Update as of June 14, 2018The Boston City Council passed a new law that bans short term rentals in properties which are not the owner’s primary residence. For properties of 2 or 3 units where the owner lives in one of the units, the owner may also rent out ONE additional unit as short term. This new law takes effect January 1, 2019, but currently listed units have until September 2019 to comply.
  • Miami Beach, Florida – allowed in some specific areas; before listing on Airbnb or other sites, must get permit. Violators can receive fines starting at $1,000.
  • Portland, Oregon – the unit must be primarily used for long-term occupancy, and you must occupy the place for at least 270 days per calendar year. You must get a permit, notify neighbors, and get an inspection done by the city.
  • Seattle, Washington – you must register your unit, and get an inspection done by the city. Beginning Jan 1, 2019, individuals are generally limited to 2 short term rental units: your primary residence, plus an additional unit; but those operating within a certain “exemption zone” downtown are allowed a larger number of units.
  • Las Vegas, Nevada – must get a special permit that costs over $1,000, unless you live in the property and it has 3 bedrooms or less. Failure to comply can subject you to fines of up to $500/day
  • Denver, Colorado – defines Short Term as up to 29 days; the property must be your primary residence; must get license and collect “lodger’s tax.” License may be revoked for any property that “negatively affects the public health, safety or welfare of a neighborhood.”
  • Detroit, Michigan – new ordinance in effect as of February 2018 (but enforcement currently on hold): in single family homes or duplexes, you may not do any short term rentals or have any overnight paid guests.1Detroit Property Maintenance Code 9-1-43 There appears to be significant backlash and legal challenges to this, so stay tuned for updates.
  • Nashville, Tennessee – allowed if owner also occupies the property, or in multi-family high rises, or in any commercial zoned areas. As of January 2018, for single family or duplexes in residential areas, short term rentals will be phased out, and banned completely by June 2020.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana – as of August 2019: No short term rentals allowed in the French Quarter (except for 6 specific blocks) or Garden District; STR allowed in residential zones only if the site of the property is owner-occupied (an owner-occupied property can STR up to 3 units). Starting Dec 1, 2019, STRs allowed in commercial and mixed use zones, limited to no more than 25% of units. Various additional regulations apply, including inspections and other safety considerations.2Code of City of New Orleans, Chapter 26, Article XI
  • Baltimore, Maryland – under a new law, you may not short term rent a property other than your primary. But hosts who have operated prior to Dec 31, 2018 may rent their home plus one additional property. You must also register with the city and collect a hotel tax of 9.5%. Starting Dec 31, 2019, you must pay a license fee of $200 every 2 years.
  • Washington DC – under a new law expected to pass, you may only short term rent your primary residence (no additional units). And if you rent your primary residence while not physically present, you are limited to 90 days per year.
  • Hawaii (Maui) – limited number of short term rentals are allowed in each community; must register and be available to get to the property within 1 hour
  • Hawaii (Big Island) – allowed in most areas; must register and pay one-time $500 fee, have someone available 24/7
  • Providence, Rhode Island – under a proposed ordinance, short term rentals (defined as fewer than 28 days), would be restricted to owner-occupied homes in lower density residential areas. In higher density areas, there would not be such a restriction.
  • See our Guide to Short Term Laws for California cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Monica, San Luis Obispo, Palm Springs, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Long Beach, Santa Clarita, Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Calabasas, Ventura, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, South Lake Tahoe, and more.

Are there any other restrictions?

If your property is within a Homeowners Association (HOA) or Co-op, you are subject to the HOA or Co-op rules as well, which often restrict short term rentals.

I rent an apartment or house. Can I legally put it on AirBnB?

Probably not, but check your lease. In addition to the above laws and rules, if you are renting a unit, your lease most likely has a restriction on any and all “subletting.” Some leases say you can sublet if you get approval from your landlord (but they usually will not allow you to AirBnB the place). However, if by chance your lease says nothing about subletting or “assignment” of the unit, and if it wouldn’t violate any of the above laws, then you probably do have the legal right to AirBnB it.

Is it illegal for an AirBnB to have cameras recording renters?

Although the specific laws vary by state, in general it is considered an “invasion of privacy” to record video or photos of people where they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” The legal definition of reasonable expectation of privacy may not be the same as yours! But generally this may include all interiors of a home, or at a minimum, bathrooms and bedrooms.

There is generally NO reasonable expectation of privacy in exterior areas. This means that cameras outside the house are OK, but cameras inside may not be OK.

As of April 2024, Airbnb has new rules on cameras. “We do not allow Hosts to have security cameras or recording devices that monitor indoor spaces, even if these devices are turned off.” So, regardless of privacy laws, if a home is listed on Airbnb, it must abide by these new rules.

See our Privacy Rights page for more.


See your options for getting legal help on short term rental issues.

Related Pages


Share the Legal Info With Your Friends: