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

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 1 day 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 1 day 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 2 days 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 4 days 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 12 days 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 18 days 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 18 days 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 23 days 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 25 days ago

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

babypoop 28 days 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 28 days ago

I believe short-term rentals should be allowed only in houses occupied by the owners. This gives these owners the opportunity to make a little money and make more efficient use of space. But absent owners should be banned from short-term rentals. These rentals are stealth hotels. We don’t allow hotels in our neighborhoods for obvious reasons, traffic, noise etc. Whatever the regs turn out to be, mandatory permits and taxes and non-compliance penalties should be enough to cover strong enforcement.

Hal 29 days ago