Short Term Rental Regulations

What are short term rentals?

Generally speaking, a short term rental is a residential property in which a property owner (host) rents a room, rooms, or an entire property to a guest(s) for a fee for less than 30 consecutive nights. Short term rentals are not new, but the growth in home-sharing through online platforms has increased. Examples of on-line platforms include AirBnB, HomeAway and VRBO.

How does the City of Olympia address short term rentals?

The Washington State Legislature adopted regulations for short term rentals in 2019 (House Bill 1798). The City of Olympia currently doesn't have specific regulations addressing short term rentals, however, the City is taking a closer look at these rentals to establish rules that are balanced and equitable for all lodging businesses.

Other cities have taken a variety of approaches to regulating short term rentals, and we need your help to develop a sound process for Olympia that:

  • Aligns with Olympia’s context and priorities
  • Protects public and private interests
  • Promotes fairness
  • Helps meet our social and economic needs

We need your input!

The City has identified the following six goals for short term rental regulations.

  1. Housing: Establish protections for the supply and affordability of housing
  2. Health and Safety: Identify unwanted behaviors and negative consequences
  3. Neighborhood Integrity: Minimize impacts and tensions between short term rentals and neighbors
  4. Fees and Taxes: Ensure equitable permit and tax compliance
  5. Enforcement: Enact enforceable policies that improve building, safety, and accessibility requirements
  6. Economic Development: Ensure an equitable approach with existing local firms and providers and their employees, and enable revenue opportunities for existing residents

Let us know what you think about each of these goals using the following tools below.

  • Comments: Tell us what you think about the six goals for short term rental regulations.
  • Stories: Share your stories about living near, staying in or operating a short term rental.


What are short term rentals?

Generally speaking, a short term rental is a residential property in which a property owner (host) rents a room, rooms, or an entire property to a guest(s) for a fee for less than 30 consecutive nights. Short term rentals are not new, but the growth in home-sharing through online platforms has increased. Examples of on-line platforms include AirBnB, HomeAway and VRBO.

How does the City of Olympia address short term rentals?

The Washington State Legislature adopted regulations for short term rentals in 2019 (House Bill 1798). The City of Olympia currently doesn't have specific regulations addressing short term rentals, however, the City is taking a closer look at these rentals to establish rules that are balanced and equitable for all lodging businesses.

Other cities have taken a variety of approaches to regulating short term rentals, and we need your help to develop a sound process for Olympia that:

  • Aligns with Olympia’s context and priorities
  • Protects public and private interests
  • Promotes fairness
  • Helps meet our social and economic needs

We need your input!

The City has identified the following six goals for short term rental regulations.

  1. Housing: Establish protections for the supply and affordability of housing
  2. Health and Safety: Identify unwanted behaviors and negative consequences
  3. Neighborhood Integrity: Minimize impacts and tensions between short term rentals and neighbors
  4. Fees and Taxes: Ensure equitable permit and tax compliance
  5. Enforcement: Enact enforceable policies that improve building, safety, and accessibility requirements
  6. Economic Development: Ensure an equitable approach with existing local firms and providers and their employees, and enable revenue opportunities for existing residents

Let us know what you think about each of these goals using the following tools below.

  • Comments: Tell us what you think about the six goals for short term rental regulations.
  • Stories: Share your stories about living near, staying in or operating a short term rental.


What do you think about the above six goals for short-term rental regulations?

You need to be signed in to comment in this Guest Book. Click here to Sign In or Register to get involved

We need to allow STR's, as they represent an important form of lodging in a city that wants to invite guests, tourists and legislative workers to visit. The unique nature of being a state capital city means short- to medium-term housing opportunities are required, beyond hotel/motel options. I worry less about the impacts they will have in our particular city, at this point in time (but believe we should have a regular interval of re-visiting the issue, as things change)...one, because we are poor at attracting tourists to our fair city (get rid of the ugly Marine Terminal and beautify our waterfront!!), and two, because with the looming Missing Middle (off-subject, but what a mess the City officials have made of this one!)--having STR's is a way of preserving critical buildings, in close-to-downtown neighborhoods which would otherwise be snapped up by developers wanting to put up expensive 4-plexes, cut down tree cover, etc. (which will themselves be used for much more aggressive forms of STR's potentially, which is why preserving the capability of the original homeowner to operate an STR both preserves the historic character of neighborhoods and also allows for small business opportunities for residents--not big business--to help pay mortgages.) STR's go in and out of being STR's.....preserving the original building is critical future housing opportunities for families wanting to live within the urban boundaries. I am concerned about Goal #6...who are we protecting there: Hotel chains? Sounds like a Chamber of Commerce goal, not a goal which residents would support....tho the last part of the sentence makes sense....'enable revenue opportunities for existing residents'...as long as those 'residents' are not big business operators. My assumption would be that taxes are gathered for STR's, not unlike any other lodging tax...seems to be the standard. Though I would imagine a lower rate for STR's, as occurs in some places (most notably in Seattle, until January, when they tacked on the additional 7% Convention and Trade Center tax for smaller capacity units). Hotels and multi-unit operations use city services much more aggressively than STR's...thus should not be taxed at the same rate. It's important that STR's not be required to follow the same policies referenced in Goal #5, as do large hotels, etc. Reasonable building and safety (the same as for long term rental rules, already established), but as far as accessibility, this would unduly prevent many STR's from existing. Accessibility should be encouraged as a positive advertising/competitive advantage for an STR, but should not be required. Obviously there should be some rules around parking, noise, allowable activity in proximity to neighbors, etc. as STR's should not be pariahs in their locations.

urbanina 4 days ago

We might approach FairBnB about being a pilot city, this is a system that can capture revenue from the short-term renter for local projects:https://fairbnb.coop/ I'm most concerned about neighborhood integrity, #4, and advise that regulations promote rentals-within-existing-homes to facilitate that. It is also important to allow legislative staff to live close-in, they are a special class of short-term renters that need access to temporary housing.

Callie Wilson 11 days ago

Thoroughly IN FAVOR of short term rentals. It has extensive economic and cultural benefits for both the hosts and the guests. I've been to places, and spent money in places, i never would have if forced to pay motel/hotel prices.

Andy P. 13 days ago

STRs undoubtedly reduce the supply of permanent housing.STRs represent an encroachment of an impactful commercial activity in neighborhoods zoned for permanent housing, not hotels.Goal #6 is unclear. What does "an equitable approach with existing local firms and providers" mean? Is this about hotels and motels? The development of STRs will drive up property values in residential neighborhoods, because the market will adjust for the additional income. This will l make housing less affordable and may increase property taxes in the long run.Goals are very good.Robbie78

Bob Jacobs 20 days ago

I do not think that this issue is a pressing problem in our city.

mmcce 20 days ago

Before restricting property rights of homeowners, serious attention and resources need to shifted to code enforcement and law enforcement. The vandalism, trash build-up, environmental degradation and genuine risk to public health and safety are grave issues to be addressed. The existence of STRs in Olympia is certainly not an issue that is driving people to "street living" that has diminished the current quality of life for city residents. Please let us not pour more of our money into non-essential issues such as STRs. City employees and the city council members need focussed attention to the people living under bridges and the broken down vans and motor homes parked along our once lovely Deschutes Parkway.

mmcce 20 days ago

I believe that much of this conversation is a solution in search of a problem. 1) There is no evidence that STRs are having an impact on housing prices within Thurston County. I've read in numerous places to expect 20,000+ new residents in our County in the coming decades. Our housing affordability problem is due to antiquated zoning regulations, overpriced HOA dues, insufficient new construction, and a lack of low-priced units. The units available on AirBNB would generally not count as "affordable" if they were market priced. Moreover, the City's data on the number of STR units is inaccurate because it includes "dormant" listings not currently available for rent. Example: My spouse and I rent out our home (that we live in) approximately one week each year. Our residence is listed on page 6 of the Olympia Planning Commission 8/5/19 presentation as an STR unit. While this is technically true, it is also true that our home would otherwise sit vacant for that week each year when we travel. Listing our home on as a STR does *not* reduce the housing supply in Olympia. The statistics presented in this 8/5/19 presentation misrepresent the scale of the STR market it Olympia - and consequently misrepresent any potential impact on the number of housing units available for Olympia residents. Finally, housing affordability is a regional issue. If you boot the STR owners out of Olympia, they'll just set up shop in Tumwater, Lacey, and unincorporated Thurston County. Olympia-only STR regulations aimed at housing affordability are unnecessary, and will not appreciably impact the situation. 2) I believe that STR operators should be held to strict compliance with fire code, insurance, and other business operation obligations like hotels. 3) It is hyperbolic to suggest that Olympia has an epidemic of raucous STR guests partying late into the evening. Most STR guests are families on vacation, seeking to save money and spend their time more closely together than a hotel would accommodate. Moreover, many of Olympia's older neighborhoods have smaller homes with few bedrooms. (These are the same kind of starter homes where young families live.) It aids in the preservation of neighborhood character when families in small homes can have their relatives visit from out of town and rent a STR nearby in the same area of town. Additionally, one of the guests who stayed in our own home while we vacationed in 2015 was a family moving to Olympia. The opportunity to stay in a "real Olympia neighborhood" was a tremendous asset to these future Olympia residents. 4) STR units should be taxed like other overnight lodging options. It is neither fair nor reasonable to create tax incentives that push business toward or away from traditional hotels. Let hotels and STR compete on price and amenities. STR units are required by law to collect and remit sales and B&O tax. If additional enforcement is prudent to ensure compliance, I support this. 5) STR units are required by law to collect and remit sales and B&O tax. If additional enforcement is prudent to ensure compliance, I support this. 6) STR operators are businesses, too. They have employees who maintain grounds, clean, manage customer service, and keep books. These are tasks which are difficult or impossible to perform remotely - STR create local jobs for local workers. I believe the City of Olympia should pursue all available avenues to encourage STR operators (and hotels!) to pay housekeeping staff a living wage.

carlsods 23 days ago

1) Affordable housing will happen when inventory exceeds demand. If you want people to have affordable options for housing you need to encourage and incentivize the construction or implementation of more rental spaces. Limiting STRs will not help boost available low cost housing options in any meaningful way that meets the exponentially growing demand for housing in Olympia. 2) STR owners tend to take better care of their properties (income sources) than a lot of residents take care of their own homes. Maybe focus on enforcing existing city codes instead of creating new ones.3) As noted by the experienced STR owners in previous comments, things seem to be amicable between residents and any STRs in their vicinity. Again, enforcement of existing rules ensures that STR occupants comply with our existing laws and guidelines.4) STRs aren't just a revenue source for residents, but a tax generator for the city. This is a great reason to grow the industry here in Olympia.5) We already have building codes and ordinances in place. What else is necessary?6) I read this as "local hotels are afraid of losing business to a new, modern rental economy." Tough luck. Times change. Adapt and overcome, that's business. It isn't the city's job to ensure you get an advantage just because you have an existing business. It's your job as a business owner to be competitive. I own two local businesses and I don't expect my state or local government to intervene on my behalf.

User Name Redacted 23 days ago

As a short term rental owner of homes in both Olympia & greater Thurston County, I would agree with the feedback from WeLoveOlympia that these goals point to a bias that STRs are bad for our community. I do not believe Olympia has a STR problem. We are a small community with a small amount of visitors. We will never become the large-scale tourist magnets like Seattle, Portland, coastal cities, Vancouver BC, etc. However, I would agree that best practices could be created to promote a healthy balance of STRs & community growth, safety of guests & positive economic development. I do not believe do we need sweeping regulations that would then require costly enforcement. Let’s encourage & create incentives for hosts to be good neighbors, & show visitors the vibrancy of small-town Olympia!I believe there are many positives to STRs in Olympia. They are a hyper-local “4th bedroom” option for families in Olympia’s neighborhoods to house visiting family & friends. Many homes in older neighborhoods are small. Having a comfortable spot for our visiting grandparents or siblings that is a few blocks away promotes car-free, community-centered tourism. About half of my guests here in Olympia to visit family nearby & seek a family-friendly space close to their loved ones. As for housing, I think the finalization of the Missing Middle initiative will broaden our housing base & encourage more units to be built. Keeping STR ownership local, however, I believe is key to fostering neighborhood integrity. I have personally met all the residents around our STR, given them our contact info & make a point to be a good neighbor. After nearly 1.5 years in operation, I have yet to receive negative feedback from neighbors. Our STR is one of the most well-kept homes on the block & is seen as a benefit to the neighborhood.STRs promote local, economic development. They enable hosts to benefit from local, flexible, home-based income. Instead of supporting international hotel chain shareholders, STRs keep dollars local (and keep me local as a host – no commute necessary). I pay my Olympia-based housekeeping & landscaping contractors well above what hotel staff earn, also allowing them a flexible, self-earned income. I promote locally owned businesses & places guests can visit that are within walking distance of the home. I supply locally made soaps & use natural, locally made cleaning products, which is far from what our hotels offer. Guests who stay nestled in our community (versus in a hotel at a freeway exit) are more likely to spend their dollars in Olympia.I look forward to working further with the city to hear all voices on this issue.

snowchick2001 23 days ago

As someone who has been a tenant, a landlord and has managed short and long term rentals I provide full support of the 6 goals outlined. I think all are important. I do worry this is hard to manage, though, and so my concern is how is this truly going to be reinforced? And there is the challenge of people that hate STR so they will have the potential to become a bigger nuisance than a STR manager. I like how the City of Seattle regulated STR. And the OR coast cities have done a nice job with their regulations. In general I am a fan of smart, attainable, realistic regulations. I also like STR because it allows for people to generate income to offset a mortgage and/or be their own boss and run their own business. As a person who travels often as a family of 5 I personally enjoy staying in STR's, as a nice alternative to a hotel. When we managed 2 Airbnb's (1 in Seattle and 1 in Olympia) we loved knowing that we were providing a safe, clean space for travelers. We were very transparent with our neighbors and worked with them to make sure they knew we are available should an issue arise. We also did many things to diminish risk (disclosed external security camera, new key pad code for each guest group, no last minute bookings, an in city manager if issue arise, etc, very strict maximum occupancy ...which I highly recommend the City of Olympia look at what other cities have done...OR coast cities has this is place and it is a MUST...we had 12 person occupancy of a 5 bed house / 14 with kids but I have seen 4-5 bed houses that say they can house 20 PPL. NOOO!!! Disaster!!!). And strict "quiet hours" of 10 p.m. - 7 a.m.

Tarakyt about 1 month ago

I’m really concerned about how short term rentals basically are houses that are largely empty for a long time that could be used to house people who want to live in Olympia and be an actual part of the community here.

frances12 about 1 month ago

I don't rent space out on any short-term rental sites, but I don't have a problem with people who do, so long as they keep things clean and quiet. Short-term rental options in the area are a godsend for those of us who have a lot of family coming from out of town, particularly for longer stays, which are completely unaffordable at hotel rates.

WildernessResident about 1 month ago

Thank you for all of your hard work on this, Leonard and Catherine! We live in Olympia and rent our entire home out to guests visiting town, and are proud to have even better relationships with our neighbors due to our hosting. We’d like to respond to your question.Our analysis of the city’s six goals is that they suffer from a strongly negative bias towards short term rentals (STRs) offered by Olympia families. If you read back through the six goals, STRs sound a bit like a dangerous plague that must be controlled, due to descriptors like: "protections," "unwanted," "impacts," and "tensions." These negative terms seem especially out of place considering there have been 0 (zero) reports to Code Enforcement (not to mention zero reports to police officers) regarding any negative activity due to an STR, according to my last phone conversation with a city official.Many of us feel that STRs have actually been a small, but wonderful, success story for families and our city, a success that should be celebrated! Olympia STRs are driving many benefits to our neighborhoods, the city's businesses and our families that a lot of folks don't know about.For instance:• As hosts, we take special care in directing all of our guests to locally owned restaurants, groceries and gift shops - resulting in more money for our community businesses, especially downtown. • We host our neighbors' families when they are in town for joyous events like weddings, holidays and graduations. Our neighbors love having this convenient option so they stay close to their loved ones during the trip.• Respecting our neighbors is our number one priority, and it shows. We have a strict “no parties” policy, posted quiet hours and we supervise our home closely when it is rented. We have clear parking instructions and there has never been an issue. Guests are always happy to comply with our rules.• We are glad to pay the extra city lodging taxes, city sales tax, and state business tax (the same that hotels pay), knowing that it goes towards essential city and state services and staff. • We are ambassadors for Olympia when visitors are here considering moving or retiring to our beautiful city. Many of these folks have in fact moved here after staying with us, and now spend their paychecks or pensions on neighborhood businesses and services.• We hosts always need to buy extra house supplies as well as hire more local folks to help with cleaning, landscaping and home repair. In this way, we support local businesses and other Olympians working to afford living in town.• Our family uses the extra income from STRs to help pay off our daughter’s college loans and to pay for our niece's driving school fees. In this way, STRs are helping keep the middle class afloat in Olympia.To sum up: the opportunity to open our home to out-of-town visitors has been of incredible benefit to our neighbors, our local businesses, our town and our family. And so, we are surprised to read the strongly negative bias in the 6 goals.May I offer what we'd consider a more balanced rewording of the city goals?1. Housing: As part of Olympia’s goal to establish protections for the supply and affordability of housing, identify if the 172 STRs in Olympia are actually having an impact on the housing affordability crisis facing our city of 52,000. Determine where STRs rate in the entire affordable housing ecosystem, in relation to the boom of market rate apartments downtown, disparity between local minimum wage and soaring real estate prices, and lack of new low-income and subsidized housing construction. 2. Health and Safety: Consult with current Olympia STR hosts to identify best practices around ensuring continued positive health and safety results in their homes, and how they have successfully created desired behavior from guests. Track unwanted behaviors and negative consequences, if they ever start to occur, through coordination with Code Enforcement and the Police department.3. Neighborhood Integrity: Document positive impacts for neighborhoods with STRs, as well as determine if there have been any conflicts or tensions with neighbors.4. Fees and Taxes: Calculate the full amount of lodging and sales tax being generated by STRs in benefit to the city. All municipal sales and lodging taxes for STRs are withheld by the two main STR platforms: AirBnB and VRBO, and then paid to the city directly. Research what type of additional STR permitting, if any, would be beneficial to the city’s goals.5. Enforcement: Determine if there are enforceable policies needed, beyond current city building codes and state STR safety laws, that would further improve building, safety, and accessibility requirements in homes used for STRs.6. Economic Development: Insure an equitable, and factual, approach between benefits to the city from Olympia families who offer STRs and priorities of the hotel/ motel industry.Thank you for reading!

WeLoveOlympia about 1 month ago

So that's the City of Olympia. That means those in Tumwater, Lacey and the county can carry on without any impact from city regulations, taxes, etc. Olympia is part of a larger community. I know it's a harder question, but any discussion regarding that which impacts the entire community should be addressed by the entire community. Are we to have four sets of rules regarding not just short term rentals, but homelessness and any issue other that impacts the whole community?

LindaD about 1 month ago

Overall, I think the goals are OK. You should add an additional goal for Monitoring data on short-term rentals. These units should be registered and tracked for trends and patterns, such as location of unit and how many days they are rented, and the average price of the rental. This will provide the City with information as to whether certain neighborhoods or blocks are being more heavily impacted than others. If you really want to increase the housing supply in Olympia then you should be limiting the number of days that an owner can rent out a short-term rental. This has been done by other jurisdiction. It would increase the supply of long-term rental units. I feel that short-term rental units should be charged an additional fee that could be used to help the City pay for enforcement (code enforcement officers and police).

Sparrow about 2 months ago

I worry about short term rentals they take away from the available housing supply and also take up parking spaces needed by the housing in existing neighborhoods. Additionally, I feel that the owner should live onsite for one of these rental units and there should be some control of how many short-term rental units are allowed in a given area. I have a short-term rental next door to my house for about two years. There have been many problems. The owner does not live onsite and is rarely at the unit. The house was remodeled to have five bedrooms and two baths. The short-term rental is rented as having six beds with space for 10 adults. Often there are multiple cars (three – five) cars parked outside, this clogs up available parking in the neighborhood. According to the OMC only five unrelated people can reside in a home at a time. However, with a short-term rental rented out to multiple people there is no control over this. Bed & Breakfasts are only allowed to rent out five rooms and the owner must live onsite. It seems short-term rentals get an unfair advantage over Bed & Breakfast, as there is no onsite owner requirement. When the owner is not onsite, there is no control as to parking, or how much noise is generated. The owner of the short-term rental next to me installed a hot tub right near my bedroom. There have been frequent problems with noise very late at night from people using the hot tub and this keeps me awake. This week I was informed by my neighbor that another house on our block was sold and will probably be used for a short-term rental. Now on my block, there are two short-term rentals in very close proximity and it appears that the owner will not be onsite for either one of them.

Sparrow about 2 months ago

One is missing. Do not allow developers to build "apartments and condos", get a tax break from the city and turn them into unlicensed, uninspected motels, which is what the developer of 1, 2, 3, 4th did. How many units are rented as AirBnBs? He also avoids paying hotel/motel tax by doing this.I am glad the city is finally taking up this issue. And don't allow absentee owners, please.

Quixotic about 2 months ago

I applaud the city for taking on this issue. I have lived in other areas where it has been challenging to find a rental due to the high demand of short-term rentals. In my current neighborhood I have two AirBnB rentals. For the most part they are pretty low key in terms of ensuring they are parking in the correct spots and not causing too much noise for the area.

jenniferann18 about 2 months ago

Is there a current problem or is just a way to create more taxes?

babypoop about 2 months ago

As a parent of young children, I have greatly appreciated being able to use short term rental properties when we travel. They are often a much better fit for a family with kids than a hotel room. I would like to preserve the ability for homeowners to rent parts of their homes in order to meet their financial needs. As values increase in Olympia it is harder and harder for homeowners to make their payments. I am concerned that if the city puts in place restrictions that there won't be good enforcement of those restrictions - this is the issue I have with code enforcement currently, they really don't seem to do a whole lot.

whitneybowerman about 2 months ago