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Can I Run An Airbnb® in Montgomery County?

Author: Jeremy Hesselbein, Peter Ciferri Date: 11/24/2017

Categories: Business Startups, Real Estate Law

A recent online search revealed approximately 227 available Airbnb® rooms, cottages, and homes for rent in the Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Silver Spring areas of Montgomery County. In a county known for regulations and restrictions, you might be asking: Are Montgomery County’s residents allowed to operate their residential homes as short-term rentals?

As of July 1, 2018, the answer could very well be “yes” – but only if you follow some very specific rules, including the need to obtain a license. On October 11, 2017, the Montgomery County Council passed two pieces of legislation that set the framework for hosting short-term rentals from your residential home, a side gig commonly known as becoming an “Airbnb® host”, borrowing the moniker from the popular broker of short-term rentals.

The County Council adopted a change to the County Zoning Ordinance creating a “Short-Term Residential Rental” use. This new residential rental use category will be available in most residential and mixed use zoning districts in the County. However, the County Council defined Short-Term Residential Rental as a “Limited Use.” This means certain statutory restrictions will limit and define your ability to use your property as a short-term rental. For example, you might not be able to use your guest house as an Airbnb® and, if you’re renting out your second home, you might face more stringent restrictions than someone renting out a primary residence. Building occupancy restrictions also apply.

The County Council also passed related legislation requiring Airbnb® hosts to obtain a county license and certify that the residence being used complies with a number of safety and building standards, along with other county laws. Failure to comply with those rules could lead to a temporary ban against the license holder or against the property location for future short-term rental license applications. Airbnb® hosts will, apparently, be regulated by the same County agency responsible for regulating hostels, hotels, and other types of short term lodging.

If you live in a condominium or a community with a Homeowners Association, there might be additional restrictions as established under your HOA Declarations. HOA restrictions are likely to be even more restrictive than the County requirements, a topic that is addressed in an article that my colleague Judyann Lee wrote this past summer.

If you are already using your residence as an Airbnb® or if you plan to start, our zoning, land use, and business law attorneys can help investigate whether your property qualifies and, if so, help you to secure the proper approvals and licenses. For more information, please contact me by e-mail or phone at (240) 778-2307.