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Hosting events at your short-term rental

  • Mar 3, 2020 | Jennifer Sokolowsky

backyard wedding

Vacation rental homes have long been popular venues for special events, from weddings to family reunions. But with increasing scrutiny on short-term rental “party houses,” hosts need to be careful about events on their properties. Knowing the rules can help avoid trouble with your rental platform, neighbors, and the law.

Airbnb policies

For Airbnb hosts, it’s important to be aware of the platform’s policies on special events at Airbnb properties. Late last year, the platform announced new rules, following a shooting in which five people were killed at a Halloween party at an Airbnb property in Orinda, California. 

Airbnb banned unauthorized parties and events, including “open invite” events that are advertised on social media or elsewhere. Under the policy, large events are also prohibited in multifamily residences such as apartment buildings and condos. Airbnb’s policy states that “hosts who attempt to circumvent this ban and allow guests to throw large parties will be subject to consequences.”

These rules do not apply to professional venues such as boutique hotels or events that are authorized by hosts and “convened respectfully by guests.” For single-family properties, Airbnb said that it will “continue to trust our hosts to set House Rules that are appropriate for their community.” Airbnb offers an “allows events” setting hosts can use to indicate that events are allowed under their house rules.

The company also created a 24/7 hotline and a webpage for complaints about Airbnb properties. When it receives complaints, Airbnb “may reach out to hosts to ask them to update their House Rules to address these concerns. When changes to House Rules are insufficient or if the complaints persist, listings will be subject to suspension or removal.”

Vrbo urges its hosts to be good neighbors and suggests taking steps such as communicating house rules to guests and creating rental agreements that outline expected guest behavior. Unlike Airbnb, however, it does not have its own rules for hosts concerning parties or special events.

Local laws

While Airbnb allows host-sanctioned events in single-family rental properties, a growing number of communities do not — and have stiff penalties for breaking the rules. Many local laws specifically prohibit large events, require hosts to have a permit in order to hold them, or limit the total number of people who can be present on a short-term rental property at one time. Before you plan to host any events, you should check the rules in your community.

In Arizona, for example, a law prohibiting local communities from restricting short-term rentals went into effect in 2017. Due to concerns about disruptive parties, that law was amended last year to allow communities to ban special events that would normally require a permit at short-term rentals.

Phoenix recently took advantage of this change to adopt a new law that prohibits special events, nonresidential uses, and liquor sales at short-term rentals. Fines for violations of the new rules range from $500 to $1,500. Scottsdale also changed its law to include a “nuisance parties” provision that allows police officers to issue civil citations for unruly gatherings at any residence, including short-term rentals. Fines are $250 for the first penalty, $1,000 for the second, and $1,500 for a third offense.

In Virginia Beach, Virginia, a vacation rental law passed in 2019 allowed approved short-term rentals to hold up to three special events with up to 100 people every year. The city council recently changed the law to restrict the number of people on a short-term rental property to the number allowed to stay overnight.

Even in Henderson, Nevada, which is allowing more short-term rentals as other cities move toward stricter rules, the law prohibits vacation rentals from hosting special events.

All of that said, many communities have no rules on the books about short-tem rentals hosting events — and some actively promote vacation rentals for weddings and other events.

Be a good neighbor

Even if you’re operating an event legally, keep in mind that you’ll also need to follow local rules on noise, parking, and other neighborhood-nuisance laws. Nothing can put a damper on your event like a visit from an irate neighbor — or the police.

Do your homework

Vacation rental properties can be wonderful venues for memorable special occasions, and these events can be lucrative for short-term rental hosts. But you need to know which event rules apply to your rental property — and follow them in order to provide a safe, legal, and enjoyable time for your guests.

Lodging tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Jennifer Sokolowsky
Avalara Author Jennifer Sokolowsky
Jennifer Sokolowsky writes about tax, legal, and tech topics. She has an extensive international background in journalism and marketing, including work with The Seattle Times, The Prague Post, Avvo, and Marriott.
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