Did you know that the rules about owning and renting out an AirBnB change based on your location? Every jurisdiction or county has a separate set of rules that you’ll need to follow as an AirBnB owner. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to do to stay above board. So whether you’re a first time AirBnBer or an experienced host, this cheatsheet has everything you need to operate your business smoothly (and legally)!

Washington, DC

Step 1: Applying for Licensing

There are two types of licensing that an AirBnB owner can get. These are short-term rental endorsements (host on-site during rental period) and vacation rental endorsements (host not on-site during rental period). Both of these require the host to be renting out space within their primary residence, however, the difference lays in the amount of time one can rent out their space throughout the year. Short-term rentals (STR) have no cap on the number of nights throughout the calendar year where a host can have renters, however, these stays have to be 30 days or shorter. Vacations rentals (VR) have a 90 day per calendar year cap within which the host can be away from the AirBnB.

Step 2: Track your Host Nights

This is not necessary for those who have an STR, as there is no cap on how many nights a space may be rented for, however, this does apply to VR owners, as there are only 90 days where you may rent while off-site in the year.

If you have both an STR and a VR, however, this changes how you may track your nights. You still have a cap at 90 nights while off-site, but, you will also have an unlimited amount of nights you may rent out while you are on-site.

Other Rules to Keep in Mind

In many areas there are other rules that you have to follow such as those from leases, condo board, co-ops, HOA rules, or rules enforced by tenant organizations. Because of this, it’s important to establish guidelines for your renters so you can continue running your AirBnB smoothly.

Montgomery County

Step 1: Applying for Licensing

Just like in DC, AirBnB owners must first apply for licensing, however, the only licensing available to hosts in MoCo are short-term residential rentals. This type of rental falls under very different guidelines when compared to the DC STRs. With a short-term residential rental, a homeowner may rent out their space while off-site for 120 days throughout the calendar year and may rent while on-site for an unlimited amount of days as long as rental periods remain under 30 days.

Step 2: Abide by Rental Policies

In order to be courteous as well as make sure your AirBnB experience is as smooth as possible, be sure to let immediate neighbors, condo board, or your HOA know that you are planning to rent. It’s also important to check that you are follow zoning restrictions and keeping records of their guests. The maximum number of adults 18 years and older permitted per short-term residential rental is six and the maximum number of adults per bedroom is two. Accessory apartments and farm tenant dwellings are not allowed to be used as short-term rentals and every rental is required to have at least one parking space.


Step 1: Apply for Licensing

In Arlington County, it is required for hosts to get a short-term rental business registration. It is also requited that rental businesses must register with the county and maintain records including the frequency of rentals as well as a log of guests staying in the rental.

Step 2: Taking Care of Your Property

Zoning is one issue that is strictly enforced and regulated in Arlington communities. As an AirBnB owner in Arlington, it is important to make sure you contact the Zoning Ordinance to see if your home needs to be considered for any specific zoning requirements. This could result in your AirBnB being labeled as a bed and breakfast; dwelling; accessory dwelling; dwelling unit; guest; guest house; guest room; hotel; hotel unit; rooming house; and tourist home, which would change some of its zoning requirements.

Arlington also enforces rules and regulations specifying minimum construction, design, and maintenance standards for buildings, including regulations on habitability, health, and safety. Certain rules and regulations applicable to residential and non-residential uses may be relevant to your listing.

One last important consideration to make, as will most other AirBnB rentals is following your other contracts or rules, such as leases, condo board or co-op rules, HOA rules, or rules established by tenant organizations.


Step 1: License and Registration

Unlike most other counties, Alexandria does not require owners to apply for licensing. However, each property is required to be listed on the Short Term Residential Rental Registry. Another difference within the Alexandria regulations when compared to other jurisdictions is the requirement that any individual who rents out over four different properties or has a gross revenue greater than $10,000 annually must obtain a business, professional, and occupational license.

Step 2: Taxes and Time Limits

Alexandria does not cap how many days a unit can be rented throughout the year, however, there are many taxes in this jurisdiction that you don’t see in many others. For example, $1 per room per night must be collected from the renter and paid to the City of Alexandria for any rental that can lodge four or more persons at any one time.

Short-term rentals in Alexandria also do not require separate zoning or permissions based on their accommodations, unlike zoning rules in places like Arlington. The only zoning that would apply to a short-term rental would be any normal zoning or permitting provisions (e.g. maximum occupancy, construction permits).

Bottom Line

When it comes to AirBnB, there are a lot of rules and regulations to keep in mind. Be sure to check local laws and regulations before listing your home. However, as long as you stay up-to-date on the guidelines and regulations in your area, you can avoid any stressful surprises down the road. By following these simple steps, you can be on your way to becoming a successful AirBnB host!

Do You want to see more posts like this?

Become a real estate expert in just 5 minutes per day. Get access to the free email people just like you get to keep you in front of what is happening in the real estate space. 

“We hate spam just as much as you do”