How to Legally Rent on Airbnb in DC

by Lark Turner

A Shaw carriage house available on Airbnb.

As our article from earlier today pointed out, it’s not hard to start hosting people on Airbnb, and for those living in central locations throughout DC, the money can be great. But what many users don’t (or won’t) consider is whether or not the temporary rental they offer is operating legally.

UrbanTurf reached out to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for details regarding what an Airbnb host can do to avoid running afoul of District regulations. Here’s what they told us, in one handy chart:


It is important to note that the information provided in the chart only covers the business and basic permits a person would need to avoid DCRA fines. But there could be other city regulations to keep in mind, including ones related to the fire code. And that’s not all: If you own a condo or co-op, your board likely prohibits units in the building from being from rented for less than 30 days at a time (and sometimes the minimum time limit is higher).

Airbnb hosts may be surprised to learn that pretty much any short-term renting scenario requires some kind of permit. But Airbnb lists the following caveat in all caps in its terms of service: “Airbnb cannot and does not control the content contained in any listings and the condition, legality or suitability of any accommodations.” Later, it states that the service “assumes no responsibility for a Host’s compliance with any applicable laws, rules and regulations.”

Since hosts can’t count on Airbnb to bail them out if they get into trouble, it’s a good move to confirm a rental is operating legally.

See other articles related to: dclofts, airbnb illegal, airbnb dc, airbnb

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  1. DC resident said at 4:29 pm on Tuesday April 22, 2014:

    I am glad.  I have no idea why these people think they can earn income without complying with every law that is applicable to them. Its’ about time. The income is fully taxable by DC & the IRS.

  1. Kelly R said at 12:49 pm on Wednesday January 21, 2015:

    I’m sure many AirBnB hosts are glad to pay taxes on the income we receive.  But navigating the licensing process who worlds more complicated.  I have been hosting for 6 months and was told back then the business license I had to rent my basement apartment was sufficient.  Now I read this and will have to research more.  Would love a knowledgeable contact at DC gov!! Do you have a name and number of someone to contact?  Perhaps the source of this info?


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