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Operating a Short-Term Rental in the District of Columbia

As one of the strongest real estate markets in the country, Washington, DC is a robust rental market. With an anticipated more than 5,100 short-term and vacation rentals in the District, a new law, the Short-Term Rental Regulation Act of 2018 (14 DCMR Section 9901.6), is now in effect governing the licensure of short-term and vacation rentals in the District of Columbia.

 

 


Welcome home DC framed photo with bed

What is a Short-Term Rental?

A short-term rental (STR) allows a host to offer fee-based lodging at their primary residence while the host is present on the property e.g. a bedroom within a home. As long as the host is present, there is no limit on the number of stays allowed during a calendar year; however, each short-term rental stay is limited to 30 or fewer continuous nights. 

 

Colorful kitchen cabinet in rental

What is a Vacation Rental?

A vacation rental is a type of short-term rental that allows a host to offer fee-based lodging at their primary residence without being present on the property e.g. use of the entire home. Cumulatively, vacation rentals cannot exceed 90 nights in any calendar year, and each rental is limited to 30 or fewer continuous nights.

For Property Owners

Whether you are simply seeking to share your space with others or want to earn extra income by renting out your home, or a part of it, having a Short-Term or Vacation Rental License may help you achieve your goals.

In order to operate a short-term or vacation rental in the District, the property must be owned by an individual, and serve as a homeowner’s primary residence – with the owner being eligible to receive the Homestead Tax Deduction. The owner, or host, must attest to the habitability of the property. 

Requirements to apply:
  • Proof of liability insurance with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage must be provided – this may be obtained through a rental platform or from an insurance company.
  • A Certificate of Clean Hands issued within the last 30 days in the property owners name must be obtained from the Office of Tax and Revenue.
  • If the rental is a co-op, condo, or if the property is in a community where there is a homeowners’ association, the owner must attest that the bylaws, house rules, or other governing documents of the homeowner/condo/ cooperative governing board or association allow short-term and/or vacation rentals, do not prohibit owners from operating short-term rentals and/or vacation rentals, or that they have received written permission from the association to operate a short-term and/or vacation rental at the address.

For Renters and Neighbors

Short-term rentals are allowed to operate in any neighborhood or zone in the District as long as the host has a valid Short-Term or Vacation Rental License.

Guests are allowed to park on public streets and must observe any residential parking restrictions. Guests are not considered a guest of a resident in the District’s annual Visitor Parking Pass program.

To confirm the existence of a license, please use Scout, DCRA’s online consolidated database.If you encounter any issues with a short-term rental, or suspect the operation of an unlicensed rental, you may contact the District of Columbia Short-Term Rental Hotline at (202) 221-8550 to file a complaint.

 

Things to Know and Steps to Apply for Your Short-Term Rental License

  1. All DCRA systems, including the District of Columbia Short-Term Rental Licensure platform, require customers to have a single sign-on, Access DC, account to use our systems. If you already have an Access DC account, you can skip this step. If you do not, it is easy to sign up.
  2. Visit the District of Columbia Short-Term Rental Licensing Platform to begin the licensing application process. You will be asked to provide basic contact information to register for the licensing platform.
  3. After registering, you will be asked to link your license platform account with the address where you will be conducting short-term rentals.
  4. Once your address has been verified, you will be asked to complete the full license application and pay the licensing fees. To assist you in being prepared to submit you license application, please have the following information available and ready to upload to the platform:
    • Clean Hands Certificate issued within the last 30 days in the property owners name (request from the DC Office of Tax and Revenue)
    • Proof of liability insurance (a minimum of $250,000 in coverage)
    • Completed Short-Term/Vacation Rental Attestation Form if your property is in an association (HOA, condo, CoOp, etc.)
    • Credit/debit card to pay license fees
 
Entry way to bedroom rental in Short-Term Rental

Additional Requirements

  • There must be unobstructed egress from the rental property, and working smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors, and a portable fire extinguisher, are required.
  • Hosts must provide a 24-hour accessible phone number to reach themselves, or their representatives, for emergencies.
  • The host must post the Short-Term Rental or Vacation Rental License conspicuously inside the property.
  • All applicable transient lodging taxes, which will be collected by booking services on behalf of hosts, must be paid.
  • Records of each booking must be maintained for a period of two years.
  • Investment properties and those owned by corporate entities are not eligible.

 

Entry way to bedroom rental in Short-Term Rental

Fees

The total cost for either license is $104.50 for a two-year license. This includes a $70.00 processing fee, a $25.00 endorsement fee, and a 10% platform fee. Property owners who have been operating short-term rentals will have until June 9, 2022 to apply for and obtain a Short-Term or Vacation Rental License before enforcement begins.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Am I required to get a license?

All short-term rental and vacation rental properties must be licensed by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). Failure to obtain a license will result in enforcement action, including fines.

What are the other requirements for a Short-Term/Vacation Rental License?

  • Proof of liability insurance with a minimum of $250,000 in coverage must be provided – this may be obtained through a rental platform or an insurance company.
  • A Certificate of Clean Hands issued within the last 30 days in the property owners name must be obtained from the Office of Tax and Revenue.
  • If the rental is a co-op, condo, or if the property is in a community where there is a homeowners’ association, the owner must attest that the bylaws, house rules, or other governing documents of the homeowner/condo/ cooperative governing board or association allow short-term and/or vacation rentals, do not prohibit owners from operating short-term rentals and/or vacation rentals, or that they have received written permission from the association to operate a short-term and/or vacation rental at the address.
  • Hosts must provide a 24-hour accessible phone number to reach themselves, or their representatives, for emergencies.
  • The host must post the Short-Term Rental or Vacation Rental License conspicuously inside the property.
  • All applicable transient lodging taxes, which will be collected by booking services on behalf of hosts, must be paid.
  • Records of each booking must be maintained for a period of two years.
  • Investment properties and those owned by corporate entities are not eligible.

What is the difference between a short-term rental and a vacation rental?

A short-term rental:

  • Host's primary residence
  • Owner-occupied during rental
  • Guests have restricted use of home
  • No limit on frequency of rentals per calendar year
  • Rentals cannot exceed 30 consecutive nights

A vacation rental:

  • Host's primary residence
  • Owner is not on the premises during rental
  • Guests have exclusive use of entire home (host and other guests not present)
  • Limit of 90 night cumulatively per calendar year*
  • Rentals cannot exceed 30 consecutive nights

*A host may apply for an exemption to the 90-night vacation rental restriction here if their employer, or their spouse or domestic partner’s employer, requires them to work outside of the District for more than 90 days cumulatively in any calendar year. The host may also apply for an exemption if they need to leave the District to receive treatment for a serious health condition or to care for a family member who is receiving treatment for a serious health condition for more than 90 days cumulatively in any calendar year.

Do I need more than one license if I have multiple short-term rentals on my property?

A host only needs one Short-Term Rental License, regardless of how many rooms they intend to rent out separately. If a host wishes to conduct short-term and vacation rentals, they will need both licenses.

What is a 'primary residence'?

A ‘Primary Residence’ is a property for which the owner is eligible for the Homestead Tax Deduction. Note that accessory dwelling units, including English basements, are considered part of a host’s primary residence if the property owner is eligible for the Homestead Tax Deduction for the property.

Do I need a Certificate of Clean Hands on my property?

Yes, property owners are required to have a Certificate of Clean Hands issued within the last 30 days in the property owner's name to obtain a Short-Term Rental License. The District of Columbia “Clean Hands” mandate stipulates that individuals are to be denied City goods or services (e.g. licenses, permits, grants, contracts) if there is a debt owed to the District of Columbia of more than $100 for fees, fines, taxes, or penalties; and/or failure to file required District tax returns. You can apply for a Certificate of Clean Hands via the DC Tax Office website at MyTax.DC.gov.

Is there a limit on how many guests I can have in my short-term rental?

Occupancy in a short-term rental is limited to a maximum of eight guests, or two guests per bedroom, whichever is greater.

Who is allowed to be a host?

Only a natural person can be a host. Business entities such as an LLC or corporation cannot be a host and are prohibited from operating a short-term or vacation rental.

Does a short-term/vacation rental require a housing inspection?

An inspection is not required before a Short-Term Rental License is issued. However, as part of the application process, the applicant must self-certify that the property complies with the Housing Code and Property Maintenance Code of the DC Municipal Regulations.

What is the fee for a Short-Term/Vacation Rental License?

The total cost for a Short-Term or Vacation Rental License is $104.50. This includes a $70 processing fee, a $25 endorsement fee, and a 10% technology fee.

How long is a Short-Term/Vacation Rental License valid?

A Short-Term/Vacation Rental License is valid for two years and can be automatically renewed after two years by paying the required fee.

Where do I apply for a Short-Term/Vacation Rental License?

You may apply for a Short-Term Rental or Vacation Rental License online. Please note that you must have or create a single sign-on, Access DC, account. For more information, visit dcra.dc.gov/accessdc. Once you have your Access DC account information, you may begin using the District of Columbia Short-Term Rental Licensing Application online portal.

Are short-term/vacation rentals allowed to operate in my neighborhood?

Short-term/vacation rentals are allowed to operate in any neighborhood or zone in the District as long as the host has a valid license.

Are short-term rental hosts required to provide off-street parking?

No, there are no requirements in the zoning regulations for short-term rental off-street parking. Guests are allowed to park on public streets and must observe any residential parking restrictions. Please note that short-term rental guests are not considered a guest of a resident in the Advisory Neighborhood Commission area designated on an annual visitor parking permit.

Are short-term/vacation rentals allowed in condominium buildings?

Yes, short-term and vacation rentals are allowed in condominium buildings as long as it is the host’s primary residence and the owner must attest that the bylaws, house rules, or other governing documents of the homeowner/condo/ cooperative governing board or association allow short-term and/or vacation rentals, do not prohibit owners from operating short-term rentals and/or vacation rentals, or that they have received written permission from the association to operate a short-term and/or vacation rental at the address.

Where can I confirm that a short-term or vacation rental property is licensed?

The status of a Short-Term or Vacation Rental License may be determined using Scout, DCRA’s consolidated online platform used to verify licenses and permits. Sites that list short-term and vacation rentals are also required to list the host’s license number as part of the listing.

Can a host hold a Short-Term Rental and Bed and Breakfast License?

Yes it is possible, however, given the onerous requirements associated with a Bed and Breakfast License and accompanying Home Occupancy Permit (HOP), DCRA recommends not having a Bed and Breakfast License and a Short-Term Rental License. If you would like to cancel your Bed and Breakfast License, please complete the Basic Business License Online Cancellation Request Form to begin the process.  

Where can I submit a complaint about a short-term or vacation rental?

You may submit a complaint regarding a short-term/vacation rental to District of Columbia Short-Term Rental Hotline by calling (202) 221-8550.

What if I am not yet licensed and I have confirmed rentals that are after the grace period already?

As of June 10, 2022, all properties for which short-term rentals occur must be licensed, regardless of when the rental was booked. Property owners who conduct short-term rentals without a license after June 9, 2022 are subject to enforcement action. Booking services that facilitate unlicensed short-term rentals will also be subject to enforcement action after this date.

What happens if I booked a short-term rental at my property and I am not eligible for either type of short-term rental license?

As the property owner, you and the booking service on which the rental reservation was made, will need to cancel the booking. Failing to do so will result in enforcement action.

Are there any exceptions to the 90-night limit for vacation rentals?

Yes. Once an applicant has applied for and received their Vacation Rental License they may complete a Vacation Rental Exemption Application Form to apply for an exemption. Information about the eligibility for an exemption is included on the form along with instructions on how to submit it.

Vacation Rental Exemption Application Form

Can I rent out my English basement as a short-term rental?

Yes, anyone can rent out an English basement as a short-term rental regardless of the zone and size, provided you are eligible for the Homestead Deduction.

I have an apartment house (three or more units). Can I rent out all units as a short-term rental?

No, you can rent out no more than two units as a short-term rental.

Can I live in my basement and rent out the rest of my house as a short-term rental?

No, you must reside in the primary portion of the property. While not a mandate of the Short-Term Rental Regulations Act of 2018, this is a requirement of the District of Columbia Zoning Regulations and compliance with both is required.

I understand that with a Vacation Rental License, I am limited to 90 nights per year. When do the 90 nights begin for 2022?

The counting of the 90 nights begins on June 10, 2022 following the end of the enforcement grace period and concludes on December 31, 2022. For subsequent years, it will follow the calendar year.

 

If you have a complaint regarding Short-Term or Vacation Rental Licenses in the District, please contact the District of Columbia Short-Term Rental Hotline at (202) 221-8550.

 


Regulations

View the full regulations for short-term and vacation rentals in the District of Columbia.
 

View Regulations

 

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