April 26, 2024

Airbnb & Short Term Rental Laws and Regulations In Tacoma - 2024

Steadily's blog cover page for information around landlord insurance.

Overview of Short-Term Rentals in Tacoma

In Tacoma, the advent of short-term rentals through platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO has introduced a new dynamic to the local economy and tourism sector. The market for temporary lodging has grown, providing an alternative to traditional hotels and motels for visitors eager to experience the city from a more personal perspective.

Short-term rentals typically refer to residential units or rooms rented out for periods shorter than 30 days. Tacoma has welcomed this new facet of the tourism industry but also implemented regulations to maintain the residential character of neighborhoods and ensure the safety and wellbeing of both guests and residents.

Regulatory Environment:

  • Permitting: Property owners must secure a City of Tacoma Business License and adhere to specific regulations.
  • Safety Requirements: Safety measures, such as smoke detectors and emergency exits, are mandated.
  • Neighborhood Impact: Measures are in place to minimize disruption to the community.

Economic Impact:

  • Investment Opportunities: Investors consider the short-term rental market as a potential revenue source.
  • Tourism Growth: These rentals contribute to Tacoma's tourist appeal and economic vitality.

The industry continues to evolve with local governments and communities seeking to balance the growth of short-term rentals with residents' interests. For those looking to invest in Tacoma's short-term rental market, understanding and adhering to city regulations is crucial for sustainable operation and contribution to the city's burgeoning tourism scene. Adapting to regulations, property owners can responsibly be part of the growth of short-term rentals in Tacoma.

Legal Framework for Short-Term Rentals in Tacoma

The legal framework for short-term rentals in Tacoma is underpinned by specific city ordinances and state regulations. This framework establishes the compliance requirements for operators and sets out the zoning districts where such rentals may be permitted.

City Ordinances and Zoning Laws

Tacoma has enacted ordinances that govern the operation of short-term rentals. Short-term rental operators must obtain the proper business licenses and adhere to the established zoning laws which dictate where residential units can be rented out on a short-term basis. Tacoma's zoning ordinances aim to balance the needs of the local community with the opportunities presented by short-term rentals.

State Regulations and Compliance Requirements

At the state level, short-term rental owners ought to comply with Washington's regulations, which may include paying state taxes and meeting health and safety standards. Compliance is crucial for legal operation, and it typically involves record-keeping, insurance, and sometimes registering the property with local or state authorities. Operators in Tacoma should ensure they understand and adhere to these state compliance requirements in conjunction with city regulations.

Licensing and Registration in Tacoma

In Tacoma, operating a short-term rental requires compliance with specific licensing and registration requirements established by the city. Hosts must navigate through the process of obtaining a business license and applying for a short-term rental license to ensure their operations are fully sanctioned under local laws.

Obtaining a Business License

Before a property owner can apply for a short-term rental license, they must first secure a City of Tacoma Business License. The process involves submitting an application to the City of Tacoma's Finance Department. Applicants should be prepared to provide detailed information about their business, including the location of the rental property. It's important to note that even if an owner already possesses a state business license, they must still obtain this local licensure to operate legally within Tacoma city limits.

Short-Term Rental License Application

After acquiring the city business license, the next step is to apply for the Short-Term Rental License. This special license demonstrates compliance with Tacoma's regulations surrounding transient accommodations. The application process compels the applicant to furnish additional information specific to their rental operation, such as the number of units available for rent, and any amenities or services provided. The City of Tacoma offers guidance and resources to assist property owners through this stage, which can be found on their official website. Compliance with both local and state regulations ensures that the rental space meets safety standards and operates within the law.

Operational Requirements and Restrictions in Tacoma

When operating a short-term rental property in Tacoma, one must navigate specific requirements and restrictions detailing permissible dwelling standards and requisite health and safety protocols. These regulations ensure guest safety, compliance with the law, and the maintenance of neighborhood quality.

Occupancy and Dwelling Standards

Short-term rental property providers must adhere to strict occupancy and dwelling unit standards. Tacoma regulations may define a cap on the number of occupants per unit, typically based on the number of bedrooms and the size of the unit. For example:

  • Studio: 2 Occupants
  • 1 Bedroom: 2 Occupants
  • 2 Bedroom: 4 Occupants

Beyond occupancy limits, the physical dwelling unit must meet certain criteria to be allowed for use as a short-term rental. This includes but is not limited to keeping the property in good repair, ensuring proper sanitation, and providing necessary utilities and facilities.

Safety and Health Regulations

Tacoma mandates a comprehensive array of safety and health regulations aimed at protecting guests. Every short-term rental must have:

  • Functioning smoke detectors on each floor and in each sleeping area.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors in accordance with state law, especially near bedrooms.
  • Accessible fire extinguishers, placed conspicuously on each floor.

These regulations are not merely recommendations but are compulsory requirements for the operation of short-term rentals. Operators found noncompliant can face penalties, including fines and revocation of their rental permit. Regular inspections may be conducted to ensure that guest safety measures are up to date and operational. Compliance with these regulations is critical for maintaining a legitimate and safe rental enterprise in the city.

Host and Owner Responsibilities in Tacoma

In Tacoma, both hosts and owners carry significant responsibilities to maintain property standards and ensure guest compliance. They are tasked with preserving the residential character of their neighborhoods while managing short-term rentals effectively.

Maintaining Property Standards

Hosts and owners must ensure their rental properties meet specific safety and maintenance criteria. This includes regular inspections and prompt repairs to preserve the residential character of the property. They are also responsible for:

  • Upholding building and fire codes
  • Providing necessary amenities and sanitary conditions
  • Keeping noise levels in check to respect local regulations

Ensuring Guest Compliance

To sustain a harmonious relationship with the community, owners who rent out their properties are accountable for their guests' behavior. It is critical that:

  • They inform guests of local laws and property rules
  • Immediate action is taken to rectify any disturbances caused by guests
  • Respect is shown for neighboring residents' peace and privacy

Taxation and Financial Considerations in Tacoma

When managing a short-term rental in Tacoma, hosts must be well-informed about the tax implications and financial responsibilities that come with generating rental income. Accurate reporting and appropriate tax remittance are not only obligatory but critical for legal and financial compliance.

Rental Income Reporting

Individuals who earn income from renting out a property on platforms like Airbnb are required to report this income to both the federal government and the state of Washington. For federal income tax purposes, rental income must be reported on the host's tax return. In Washington State, hosts must also report their income to the Washington State Department of Revenue. It is important for hosts to maintain meticulous records of their earnings and expenses related to the rental property to ensure accurate reporting.

Transient Occupancy Tax and Remittance

Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), commonly known as hotel or lodging tax, is a tax that guests pay on their short-term rental stay. In Tacoma, short-term rental operators are responsible for the collection, reporting, and remittance of this tax to the appropriate tax authorities. The tax rate can vary, and it’s essential that hosts remain up-to-date with the current rates and regulations enforced by local municipalities. The collected taxes must be remitted regularly, following the specific schedule determined by the local tax collection agency.

Short-term rental hosts are advised to consult with a tax professional to ensure they meet all tax obligations associated with their rental property. Failure to comply with tax laws and regulations can lead to penalties and fines. Professional guidance can help navigate the complexities of tax collection and remittance for short-term rentals in Tacoma.

Impact on Local Community and Housing in Tacoma

In Tacoma, the emergence of short-term rentals through platforms like Airbnb has initiated a significant dialogue on their effects on housing affordability and community dynamics. Regulations are being considered to balance economic opportunity with the preservation of neighborhood integrity and accessible housing options.

Affordable Housing Concerns

The availability of affordable housing in Tacoma is a pressing issue, and short-term rentals are often cited as a contributing factor to its scarcity. The conversion of long-term rentals into short-term accommodations can reduce the stock of available housing, causing an upward pressure on rent prices. Chelan County Municipal Code specifically mentions affordable housing as a justification for the regulation of short-term rentals, reflecting a broader concern that has a tangible impact on Tacoma residents.

Community Relations and Standards

Short-term rentals can influence the residential character of neighborhoods, which may lead to disruptions in community relations and standards. The transient nature of short-term rentals can alter the sense of stability and continuity that long-term residents value. Government services have also come into focus as the influx of temporary residents creates demand for maintained infrastructure and public safety resources without the traditionally associated residency commitment. How cities can regulate short-term rentals in Tacoma is a question of preserving community cohesion while navigating the benefits and challenges this new rental market introduces.

Special Considerations in Tacoma

When delving into the specificities of Airbnb and short-term rental laws and regulations in Tacoma, potential hosts must consider how different property types and zoning regulations influence their ability to operate legally. Particular attention should be given to rules concerning accessory dwelling units and the need for conditional use permits in certain instances.

Accessory Dwelling Units and Conditional Use

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), often taking the form of basement apartments or backyard cottages, may be eligible for use as short-term rentals in Tacoma. It's crucial for property owners to determine if their ADUs conform to local zoning laws and whether a conditional use permit is required. Such permits are typically needed when the intended use deviates from the default zoning restrictions, especially in areas zoned for single-family homes. The specifics about obtaining a conditional use permit for properties to be used as bed and breakfasts or other vacation rentals can be found through the City of Tacoma's permits division.

Unique Property Types and Regulations

In Tacoma, regulations may vary for individual rooms versus the rental of an entire home. Property owners looking to offer their condos or unique homes as short-term rentals should familiarize themselves with different requirements that apply to differing property types. A condo, for instance, might have additional homeowners' association (HOA) rules, while a unique property type, such as a houseboat, could have specific maritime considerations. It is imperative to review these specifics to ensure compliance with all local laws and maintain a neutral alternative to traditional hotel or motel lodgings. For a comprehensive guide on regulations that could impact various property types, referring to Tacoma's Short Term Rental Regulation guide might offer further insights.

Resources and Support for Hosts in Tacoma

In Tacoma, short-term rental hosts have access to a variety of resources and support avenues to ensure compliance with local laws. These avenues include governmental assistance through planning departments and educational materials that offer guidance on market trends and hosting responsibilities.

City of Tacoma Planning and Development Services

The City of Tacoma Planning and Development Services provides a framework for hosts to understand and navigate the zoning codes, permit requirements, and other regulations pertaining to short-term rentals. Hosts can consult the city's dedicated officials to ensure their property aligns with local laws. By adhering to these guidelines, hosts can help maintain the integrity of both residential neighborhoods and the short-term rental market.

Contact Information for the City of Tacoma Planning Department includes a phone number: (253) 591-5030, an address at 747 Market Street, 3rd Floor, Tacoma, WA 98402, and a web link to the City of Tacoma Planning website.

Host Education and Tip Sheets

Hosts can greatly benefit from Host Education and Tip Sheets that cover a range of topics from best practices, safety measures, to tax information. These materials often include up-to-date data on trends within the short-term rental industry, helping hosts to make informed decisions for their businesses. Tailored to Tacoma's market, these tip sheets prove to be invaluable in helping hosts maximize their potential while conforming to regulations.

Key areas covered in the discussion include registration processes, safety and insurance information, tax obligations, and how to handle them, as well as navigating neighborhood concerns.

By utilizing these resources, short-term rental hosts in Tacoma can operate with a clear understanding of the expectations set forth by local jurisdictions, fostering a responsible and knowledgeable community of hosts.

Enforcement and Penalties in Tacoma

In Tacoma, compliance with short-term rental regulations is taken seriously to preserve community welfare and housing integrity. Operators found in violation of these regulations may face various sanctions.

Violations of short-term rental laws may include operating without a license, exceeding guest capacity, or ignoring safety requirements. The City of Tacoma enforces these laws diligently, and penalties are in place for non-compliance.

Penalties can range from fines to the revocation of operating licenses:

  • First Offense: Written warnings may be issued for initial infractions, signaling the need for immediate rectification.
  • Subsequent Offenses: These could incur escalating fines. Specific amounts are based on the frequency and severity of the violations.

The fines for violations are structured as follows: a second violation incurs a $250 fine, a third violation results in a $500 fine, and for four or more violations, fines can reach up to $1,000 per incident.

The City of Tacoma, through its Planning and Development Services, provides a platform for neighbors to report suspected illegal short-term rentals, which are then investigated accordingly.

Legal issues may arise for persistent offenders, ranging from civil penalties to legal actions. Enforcement ensures that community standards are maintained, and that short-term rental properties adhere to the city's vision of residential harmony and safety.

Adherence to these regulations and rules is critical for hosts considering the short-term rental market, as non-compliance not only impacts their business but also affects neighborhood stability and housing market dynamics.

Cultural and Natural Attractions in Tacoma

Tacoma captivates visitors with a blend of cultural and natural attractions. The city, nestled along the shores of Puget Sound, provides a stunning backdrop to an array of activities and experiences.


  • Point Defiance Park, a large urban park offering visitors lush forests, gardens, and miles of walking trails. An oasis in the city, it allows guests to immerse in nature.
  • Wright Park Arboretum provides a serene atmosphere with its wide variety of plant species and a picturesque pond.


  • The Tacoma Art Museum, known for its collection of Northwestern art, reflects the region's culture through its exhibits.
  • Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, a hub for the performing arts, showcases theater, music, and dance.

Natural Beauty:

  • With views of Mount Rainier, Tacoma's landscape is underscored by the mountain's imposing presence. It's a constant reminder of the Pacific Northwest's rugged elegance.
  • Ruston Way Waterfront offers scenic strolls with panoramic views of Puget Sound.

The city’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty while fostering its arts scene creates a unique destination for travelers. Those visiting Tacoma enjoy the harmonious balance of an urban environment enriched by the natural wonders of the region.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the complexities of short-term rental regulations in Tacoma can be challenging for property owners. Accurate knowledge of licensing, zoning, and compliance is essential for operating legally and avoiding penalties.

What are the licensing requirements for short-term rentals in Tacoma?

Owners looking to operate short-term rentals must obtain a City of Tacoma business license and comply with any additional specific licensing requirements set forth by the city for these types of operations.

Are there specific zoning regulations for operating short-term rentals in Tacoma?

Yes, the City of Tacoma has zoning regulations that must be followed by short-term rental owners. It's important for owners to review these regulations thoroughly to ensure their property is in a permitted zone for such activities.

How do Pierce County regulations impact Airbnb operations?

While Tacoma has its own set of regulations, Pierce County may also impose additional rules affecting short-term rentals. Owners should be mindful to adhere to both city and county ordinances.

What constitutes a short-term rental under Washington state law?

Under Washington state law, a short-term rental is typically defined as a residential unit rented out for less than 30 consecutive days.

What penalties apply for non-compliance with Tacoma's short-term rental laws?

Owners who do not comply with Tacoma's short-term rental laws may face fines and other penalties. Enforcement of these laws ensures that all rental operations meet safety standards and city requirements.

Can homeowners in Tacoma legally rent out their properties as short-term rentals?

Homeowners in Tacoma can legally rent out their properties as short-term rentals provided they adhere to the city's regulations and obtain the necessary licensing. It is crucial for homeowners to stay updated on the ongoing changes to regulations.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal, financial, or tax advice. Consult your own legal, financial, or tax advisor for matters mentioned here. The information on this site is general in nature. Any description of coverage is necessarily simplified. Whether a particular loss is covered depends on the specific facts and the provisions, exclusions and limits of the actual policy. Nothing on this site alters the terms or conditions of any of our policies. You should read the policy for a complete description of coverage. Coverage options, limits, discounts, deductibles and other features are subject to individuals meeting our underwriting criteria and state availability. Not all features available in all states. Discounts may not apply to all coverages. Steadily is not liable for any actions taken based on this information. If you believe any of this information may be inaccurate please contact us.

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