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Sonoma County halts new short-term rental permits for 45 days

  • May 24, 2022 | Jennifer Sokolowsky

Sonoma County

In advance of a vote on proposed new vacation rental rules, Sonoma County, California, has implemented a 45-day moratorium on new short-term rental permits in unincorporated areas of the county due to high demand.

The moratorium, which ends in late June, applies to applications made after March 17 in districts 1, 4, and 5, which include Sonoma Valley as well as western and northern areas of the county. Districts 2 and 3 are exempt from the moratorium since demand isn’t as high there. Hosted rentals and properties on the coast under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission may also proceed with permit applications.

In March, a proposal was introduced that would tighten up short-term rental regulations. Since then, the county has received more than 100 vacation rental permit applications. Normally staff receive around 10 applications a month.

On August 2, the County Board of Supervisors will vote on the proposed new rules, which would include a new licensing system to ease enforcement, caps on the percentage of vacation rentals in certain communities, potential bans on short-term rentals altogether in some areas, and a 24/7 vacation rental complaint hotline.

An estimated 2,459 short-term rentals operated in Sonoma County in 2021, equal to approximately 2% of single-family homes. About 1,485 of these were in unincorporated areas, according to a county-commissioned economic study.

This isn’t the first time the county has put a halt to issuing short-term rental permits. In October 2017,  the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors imposed a 45-day moratorium on issuing new vacation rental permits, then extended it to February of 2018 amid concerns about local housing supply, especially for victims of the 2017 wildfires. 

Under current rules, the county requires short-term rentals to have a vacation rental permit. Each rental must have a certified vacation property manager who has taken a county-run course and passed an exam.

Hosted rentals, defined as the rental of a single room or sleeping area within a single-family dwelling, must have a hosted rental permit but do not need a certified property manager.

Both vacation rentals and hosted rentals are only allowed in specific zones, and hosts must abide by rules on occupancy, parking, noise, and events. Operators must also collect transient occupancy tax (TOT) from guests and file TOT tax returns with the county.

Airbnb automatically collects TOT on behalf of hosts in unincorporated Sonoma County for bookings made through its site. However, operators need to be aware that they’re responsible for collecting and filing any lodging taxes Airbnb doesn’t collect directly for them, as well as taxes on bookings made through other platforms, such as Vrbo.

MyLodgeTax can help California short-term rental hosts automate and simplify their lodging tax compliance. For more on lodging tax 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.

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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