San Bernardino County hosts have until end of March to get vacation rental permit
- Feb 18, 2020 | Jennifer Sokolowsky
Short-term rental hosts in unincorporated San Bernardino County have until March 31, 2020, to apply for an operating permit under a new law.
The new vacation rental ordinance, which was passed in November and went into effect in December, applies to residential rentals and accessory dwelling units, in both mountain and desert areas of the county. Currently, the measure doesn’t apply to alternative vacation rentals such as trailers and yurts.
According to county officials, the number of short-term rentals in the area grew by more than 20% in 2019 to approximately 1,160. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved the rules amid complaints from neighbors and concerns about the effect of short-term rentals on affordable housing supply.
Among other rules, short-term rental units must be occupied by their owners (or at least one unit must be occupied if there’s more than one on the same parcel). Vacation rentals on plots of 2 acres or more are exempt from the owner-occupancy rule. Vacation rentals are prohibited from hosting events such as weddings, retreats, or conferences without an event permit.
The new rules also limit the number of guests and mandate that owner/managers provide a 24-hour phone number for complaints and arrive at the property within an hour to resolve issues. Guests must receive written information about short-term rental regulations and sign an acknowledgement that they understand the rules and penalties.
The ordinance also requires vacation rentals to comply with county fire, building, zoning, and health and safety codes. In addition, vacation rentals must have:
- Smoke detectors in all hallways on each floor and in each bedroom
- Carbon monoxide detectors in all hallways and in each bedroom that has a gas appliance
- Fire extinguishers mounted on each floor
- Power failure emergency lights on each floor near exits and stairways
- Interior signs that offer emergency contact information and information on local rules
- Animal-proof trash cans
- On-site parking
Advertisements for short-term rental properties in San Bernardino County must include a permit number, and short-term rental properties must be inspected by county officials as part of the permit application process. Permits must be renewed and units reinspected every two years.
The county began enforcement of the new requirements in January, sending out officers to inspect short-term rental properties for compliance with building and safety codes. Some short-term rental hosts in the unincorporated town of Joshua Tree have said the county’s enforcement of the law is too heavy-handed and have filed complaints with county agencies.
Under the ordinance, short-term rental operators must also apply for a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) license. Hosting platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo are required by the law to collect TOT on behalf of hosts — but if they don’t, hosts are still solely responsible for collecting taxes from guests and filing occupancy tax returns with county officials.
Currently, Airbnb collects TOT for hosts in San Bernardino County, while HomeAway/Vrbo does not.
MyLodgeTax can help San Bernardino County short-term rental operators comply with transient occupancy tax registration, collection, and filing requirements. For more on occupancy taxes in California, see our state Lodging Tax Guide. If you have tax questions related to vacation rental properties, drop us a line and we’ll get back to you with answers.