City posts updated rules for short-term rentals

As a result of the City Council passing new regulations on short-term rentals, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections has published updated rules, including interpretations of the new ordinance.  You may be surprised by a few of the rules.

SDCI has rationalized the new regulations with existing land-use code, and come up with a list of places where short-term rentals are prohibited. They include:

  • RVs, tents, garages, boats, and other places not considered “dwelling units.”
  • “Dwellings in commercial or industrial buildings permitted as ‘caretaker’s quarters.'”
  • Live-work units.
  • Floating on-water residences (i.e. Seattle’s famous houseboats).
  • Waterfront residences.

Those last two might surprise you. But Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program ordinance limits the kinds of activities allowed in areas zoned “Urban Residential,” and explicitly prohibits “commercial uses” on waterfront lots where lodging is expressly called out as a commercial use. Floating homes have their own special sections in the city code, and generally have the same zoning restrictions as the land to which they are moored.

Other rules:

  • No more than eight people total may occupy a dwelling unit, “with some exceptions” that are left unspecified.
  • A property owner must meet the parking, noise, housing and building maintenance, and other code requirements — with the implicit threat that the owner could be fined otherwise.
  • If the unit is not within the owner’s home, then the unit must be registered with the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) program, which inspects the quality of long-term rentals.
  • If you serve food to your guests, you must meet all applicable state and county health regulations. It isn’t clear whether “serving food” includes stocking basic items in the kitchen.

The rules also specify fines: if a violation isn’t fixed in a timely manner, SDCI may charge you $150-500 per day, plus a charge for inspections.

I suspect in the weeks to come they will be updating these rules with more clarifications.


  1. Interesting additional restrictions, some of which were obvious but not enforced. Clearly an RV, tent, boat etc is not a structure which is habitable / rentable.

    What would be nice – and I have suggested to many levels of the council – would be also to incorporate the state hotel laws which prohibit any building with more than 3 units from short term rental unless it has a hotel license. That would eliminate several operators who have sought to manipulate this legislation.

Comments are closed.