Short-Term Rentals

What Is It?

A brown woman with a thought bubble full of places she might want to stay.Short-term rentals are a type of lodging sometimes called vacation rentals. A house, condo, or apartment (or a part of one) that is rented for a fee for fewer than 30 consecutive nights is a short-term rental. Examples of short-term rentals are those rented through platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO. The City’s Land Use Code (effective in January 2018) and the City License Code (effective January 1, 2019) regulate short-term rentals.

This page addresses the Land Use Code rules for short-term rentals, as adopted by City Council in Ordinance 125483 in December 2017. For information on licenses to operate a short-term rental in Seattle, please contact the Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS).

What It Isn’t

This section does not cover:

  • Rules about business licensing, taxes, limits on number of units, and other provisions for short-term rentals that are in effect starting in 2019. That information is available at the FAS Short-Term Rental webpage.
  • Rooms or apartments rented out for more than a month at a time
  • Traditional bed and breakfasts
  • Hotels and motels

Rules to Follow

Short-term rentals ARE allowed in:

  • Most structures established as dwelling units

Short-term rentals are NOT allowed in:

  • RVs, tents, garages, boats, and other spaces that are not considered dwelling units
  • Floating on-water residences, waterfront residences, and other areas where lodging activities are prohibited by the Shoreline Code (see the GIS map to find shoreline zones)
  • Dwellings in commercial or industrial buildings permitted as “Caretaker’s quarters
  • Live-work units

Requirements for all short-term rentals:

  • If the short-term rental is not within the home you live in, such as another home, condominium, separate basement apartment, or backyard cottage that you own, you must register with the City’s Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance program (RRIO)
  • You must meet the parking, noise, housing and building maintenance, and other code requirements that apply to your property
  • If you serve food to your guests, you must meet all applicable state and county health regulations

Licensing and tax requirements:

Read the Code

Find more information about the adopted legislation on the City Council’s webpage.


If you receive notice of a Land Use Code or Housing Code violation and don’t fix the problem in a timely manner, we may fine you $150 to $500 a day. We will also charge you for inspections.

Construction and Inspections

Nathan Torgelson, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA, 98124-4019
Phone: (206) 684-8600
Phone Alt: Violation Complaint Line: (206) 615-0808
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SDCI issues land use, construction, and trade permits, conducts construction and housing-related inspections, ensures compliance with our codes, and regulates rental rules. SDCI is committed to an antiracist workplace and to addressing racism through our work in the community.