But listing your home on Airbnb isn’t quite as easy as snapping some photos and posting them online. Many cities across the globe have regulated the short-term lodging service in order to keep guests and homeowners safe and honest. Navigating these rules might seem daunting, but we’ve broken down the basics that first-timers need to know right here—a beginner’s guide to hosting on Airbnb.
Airbnb has a list of hosting standards that cover everything from communication to cleanliness, explains Shannon Hyde, the global operations manager at GuestReady, an Airbnb management company with locations across the globe.
And even though your plans might change, you’ll want to avoid canceling on your guests at any time.
While these aren’t “rules” in the sense that they’re enforceable or come with penalties for violating them, they will have a major impact on the success of your hosting endeavor.
If you’re a U.S.-based host, you’ll also want to take a close look at Airbnb’s guide to responsible hosting in the United States. You’ll need to do your due diligence to prepare guests for emergency situations (e.g., providing a first-aid kit and a list of emergency numbers that includes the nearest hospital), and stay up to code when it comes to smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
This hosting thing doesn’t come without its costs to you. That’s only fair, right? As Airbnb notes, most cities require hosts to apply (and usually pay a fee) for permits or registrations in order to legally rent out their home—even if it’s just for a few days. Don’t even think about skirting this.
“Ensure you look up any permitting, zoning, safety, and health regulations that may apply,” the service’s site notes, directing users to explore the specific government agencies that regulate the use of property in their particular town or city.
For example, in Minneapolis, it’s the Housing and Fire Inspections department; in San Francisco, it’s the Office of Short-Term Rentals.
Have a guesthouse or second property that you want to make a permanent Airbnb offering? Before you fancy yourself Scrooge McDuck swimming in a pond of money, know this: There are usually rules on how long you can rent out your house.
While each city is different, Stephen Fishman, a lawyer who specializes in tax and business law, says you should verify the following information:
Why does it matter? In some cities and states, guests who stay in a home for a certain number of consecutive days are able to be considered tenants. That means that you’d have to go through a complicated eviction process in the event they don’t want to leave—in other words, you could have a squatter nightmare on your hands.
If you don’t comply with your city’s regulations, you could also face hefty fines. Just last year, a woman in Trump Tower was fined $1,000 for violating New York’s recent ban on short-term rentals.
Avoid the hassle by finding the cutoff date in your jurisdiction—and don’t let anyone stay longer than that. No exceptions.
Like cities, homeowners associations and co-ops take a different approach to regulating short-term rentals. Some places might have no rules at all, while others can ban subleasing altogether.
Even if your community doesn’t have specific rules regarding short-term rentals, there are often clauses regarding following local regulations and zoning laws. That means hosts can be on the hook—not only with the city but also with their HOA—if they don’t follow the law.
Any profits you earn from renting out your home are subject to income tax. Before tax time rolls around, make sure you do your homework about how to report rental income.
One big thing to know: If you’re a U.S. citizen, you’re subject to income tax—even if your property is located outside the U.S. If you’re from outside the U.S. but have a U.S.-based property? Well, you’ll pay taxes on that, too.