Alameda County, California Short-Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Alameda County, California

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Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in Alameda County

Short-term rentals, such as those listed on Airbnb and VRBO, are subject to various regulations in Alameda County, California. These rules are outlined in county ordinances, zoning codes, and planning codes.

In unincorporated areas of Alameda County, all rental housing units, including short-term rentals, must be registered with the county. This includes "transitory residential units in hotels, motels, inns, and vacation rentals." Property owners must pay an annual registration fee and obtain a business license if engaging in the business of rental housing.

The county also recently passed an ordinance adding Chapter 6.64 to the County Ordinance Code to establish a rental housing registry. The purpose is to collect information on rental rates, eviction notices, and ensure rental housing is preserved. Short-term rentals under 30 days are generally not allowed for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in the county. This is meant to discourage listing ADUs on sites like Airbnb and VRBO and instead promote them for long-term housing needs.

Within the city of Alameda, short-term rentals are legal but hosts must register with the city and collect a 14% transient occupancy tax. There are a few licensed Airbnb listings operating in compliance with city rules. Landlords in Alameda are required to provide an initial registration statement for each rental unit to the city's rent program.

Nearby cities have their own short-term rental regulations:

  • In Oakland, short-term rentals under 30 days are only allowed in certain zones (downtown, airport area, etc.) and require a conditional use permit. A 14% transient occupancy tax applies. Recent updates further restrict the number of days per year a property can be used as a short-term rental.
  • Berkeley requires short-term rental hosts to prove primary residency, provide liability insurance, register and obtain a permit from the city, and collect a 14% tax plus a 2% enforcement fee. Rentals under 14 days are only allowed in certain zoning areas.
  • In San Leandro, "hosted" short-term rentals (where the owner is present) are allowed with a permit, but "non-hosted" rentals of an entire home are prohibited. The city charges a 14% transient occupancy tax.

So in summary, short-term rental operators in Alameda County and its cities must carefully review the relevant local regulations, which commonly include registration, permits, taxes, and restrictions on the type and location of rentals allowed. Failing to comply can result in fines and penalties. The rules aim to balance the economic benefits of short-term rentals with the stability of the long-term housing market.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirements in Alameda County

Short-term rental operators in Alameda County must carefully review the licensing and permit requirements in their specific city or unincorporated area. While the county itself does not directly regulate short-term rentals, the individual cities have established their own rules.

In the city of Alameda, all short-term rental operators are required to:

  1. Obtain a business license from the Finance Department
  2. Submit a Zoning Clearance form signed by the Permit Center
  3. Obtain a Home Occupation Permit if operating the rental from their residence

The business license application can be submitted online pending approval of the Zoning Clearance and Home Occupation Permit. These forms must be completed and submitted to the Planning Department. Business license fees are based on gross receipts and licenses must be renewed annually by June 30th.

Failure to obtain the proper licenses and permits may result in fines and penalties. Operating an unlicensed short-term rental is a violation of the city's ordinances.

In the city of San Leandro, short-term rental hosts must:

  1. Register for a business license with the Finance Department
  2. Complete and submit a Hosted Short-Term Rental Permit Application to the Finance Department

The business license application can be submitted online, while the Hosted STR Permit Application must be submitted in person, by email, or by mail to the Finance Department. A 14% transient occupancy tax (TOT) also applies to short-term rentals and is due monthly.

San Leandro prohibits non-hosted short-term rentals where the host is not present during the guest's stay. Violators may face fines of $1,000 per infraction and potential legal action by the city. Hosted short-term rentals are allowed in most residential areas with the proper permits.

Short-term rental operators in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County must register their properties with the county's Rental Housing Registry. This applies to any rental housing unit, including short-term vacation rentals. Property owners must pay an annual registration fee and may pass on up to 50% of the fee to tenants.

So in summary, while Alameda County itself does not directly oversee short-term rentals, the cities of Alameda and San Leandro have established permitting processes that commonly include obtaining a business license and short-term rental permit. Fees and taxes also apply in most cases. Hosts should allow ample time for applications to be processed and be aware that operating without the required permits can lead to significant fines and legal repercussions. Consulting with the relevant city departments is advised to ensure compliance with all local regulations.

Required Documents for Alameda County Short-Term Rentals

Short-term rental operators in Alameda County must submit several required documents to legally register their properties. The specific documents vary depending on the city.

In the city of Alameda, short-term rental hosts need to provide:

  1. Business License Application: This registers your short-term rental as a business with the city. It can be submitted online through the Finance Department pending approval of the Zoning Clearance and Home Occupation Permit.
  2. Zoning Clearance Form: This verifies your property is in an allowed zone for short-term rentals. It must be signed by the Permit Center and submitted to the Planning Department.
  3. Home Occupation Permit: This is required if operating the short-term rental from your primary residence. The application is submitted to the Planning Department.

In the city of San Leandro, required short-term rental documents include:

  1. Business License Application: Registers your short-term rental business with the city. It can be submitted online to the Finance Department.
  2. Hosted Short-Term Rental Permit Application: Applies for a permit to operate a hosted short-term rental where the host is present during the guest's stay. It must be submitted to the Finance Department in person, by email, or by mail.

Note that non-hosted short-term rentals, where the host is not present, are prohibited in San Leandro.

For unincorporated areas of Alameda County, short-term rentals must be registered with the Rental Housing Registry. Required information includes:

  1. Property address
  2. Contact information for owner and any property manager
  3. Number and type of rental units
  4. Business license number
  5. Rent amounts and tenancy details

This registration must be renewed annually. Late fees apply for registrations submitted after January 1st each year.

So in summary, short-term rental operators in Alameda County should be prepared to submit business license applications, zoning clearance forms, rental permit applications, and property details to the relevant city departments. Consulting directly with the city is recommended to confirm the exact documents required. Failure to provide the necessary paperwork can result in fines and prohibit legal operation of a short-term rental.

Alameda County Short-Term Rental Taxes

Short-term rental operators in Alameda County are subject to various taxes depending on the city where the property is located. It's important to understand and comply with these tax obligations.

In the city of Alameda, short-term rental hosts must collect a 14% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) from guests for stays of 30 nights or less. This tax is a percentage of the listing price including any cleaning fees. Hosts are responsible for collecting the tax from guests and remitting it to the city on a monthly basis using the online filing system.

The city of Oakland imposes a 14% Transient Occupancy Tax on short-term rentals as well. Like in Alameda, this tax applies to stays of 30 consecutive days or less and is based on the total rent charged. Short-term rental operators in Oakland must register for a business license and submit TOT payments to the city.

Other cities in Alameda County have their own transient occupancy tax rates for short-term rentals:

  1. Berkeley charges a 12% TOT plus a 2% enforcement fee for stays of 29 nights or less
  2. San Leandro requires short-term rental hosts to collect a 14% TOT

Unincorporated areas of Alameda County do not directly tax short-term rentals, but hosts in these areas must still register their properties with the county's Rental Housing Registry and pay an annual fee.

In addition to transient occupancy taxes, short-term rental income is subject to federal and state income taxes. Hosts should report their rental income on their tax returns.

However, many expenses related to operating a short-term rental are tax deductible, such as:

  1. Mortgage interest
  2. Property taxes
  3. Rental unit utilities
  4. Cleaning fees
  5. Rental insurance
  6. Repairs and maintenance
  7. Supplies for guests
  8. Platform service fees (e.g. Airbnb fees)

Hosts can deduct the portion of these expenses that are attributable to the time the property is rented. If a property is used for both rental and personal purposes, costs must be allocated appropriately.

Keeping detailed records of short-term rental income and expenses is critical for accurately reporting taxes. Consulting with a tax professional is recommended to ensure proper compliance with all tax requirements. By understanding the applicable taxes and taking advantage of available deductions, short-term rental operators can optimize their tax liability.

California Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

In addition to local regulations in Alameda County and its cities, short-term rental operators must also comply with state-wide rules in California. These laws provide a broad framework that local jurisdictions can build upon.

California defines a short-term rental as any residential property rented out for periods of 30 days or less. This encompasses a wide variety of rental arrangements advertised on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO.

At the state level, short-term rentals are subject to the same 12% transient occupancy tax (TOT) that applies to hotels. This tax is collected by the host and remitted to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration. Some listing platforms like Airbnb collect and remit the TOT on behalf of hosts in many California jurisdictions.

In 2019, California passed statewide rent control measures under Assembly Bill 1482. This law caps annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation for many properties, including some short-term rentals. It applies to apartment buildings, condos, and some single-family homes over 15 years old. However, the rent cap does not apply if the host lives on-site.

AB 1482 also requires "just cause" for evictions and relocation assistance in some cases. Hosts cannot evict short-term rental tenants without an allowed reason after 12 months of occupancy.

Additionally, Senate Bill 60 mandates that short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO provide specific information to California cities and counties on a regular basis. This includes data on rental activity and revenues to aid in TOT collection and enforcement of local regulations.

So in summary, while cities and counties are the primary regulators of short-term rentals, California does impose some state-wide rules. The 12% TOT, rent control provisions, "just cause" eviction requirements, and data reporting mandates create a regulatory floor that Alameda County hosts must follow in addition to local ordinances. Consulting with both state and local authorities is advised to ensure full compliance.

Does Alameda County Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions from real estate forums like BiggerPockets and Reddit, Alameda County and its cities are generally not considered friendly to short-term rentals compared to other areas. The county has strict regulations on the books and has shown a willingness to enforce them.

Cities like Oakland are actively looking to further regulate short-term rentals on platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. Oakland estimates there are around 2,600 short-term rental units operating illegally in the city. Enforcing bans on non-permitted rentals could free up long-term housing supply, but also negatively impact the local economy.

Hosts on Reddit report issues with illegal short-term rentals causing disruptions in residential neighborhoods. Complaints include noise, parking problems, and a revolving door of disrespectful guests. While some have had success reporting violations to the city, enforcement seems to be complaint-driven rather than proactive.

Unpermitted short-term rentals are especially risky in tenant-friendly cities like Oakland. If caught, hosts renting illegal units could owe tenants the difference in rent compared to a legal unit for the duration of their hypothetical stay - potentially a huge sum. Tenants could also use the unpermitted status against a host in an eviction.

So while short-term rentals do seem to operate in Alameda County despite the rules, hosts are taking on significant risk. The county is much less Airbnb-friendly than other popular short-term rental markets with looser regulations. Investors are generally advised against relying on short-term rental income from unpermitted units.

Alameda County's strict stance appears to prioritize preserving long-term housing over the economic benefits of short-term rentals. Hosts should carefully weigh the risks and thoroughly understand local regulations before listing properties on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. The county has the rules in place to crack down on violators if and when it chooses to do so.

How to Start a Short-Term Rental Business in Alameda County

Starting a short-term rental business in Alameda County requires careful planning and compliance with local regulations. Here are the key steps to get started:

  • Research local regulations: Thoroughly review the short-term rental rules in your specific city or unincorporated area of Alameda County. Understand zoning restrictions, permit requirements, taxes, and any other applicable regulations. Consult with the city's planning, finance, and tax departments for the most up-to-date information.
  • Prepare your property: Ensure your rental property is safe, clean, and well-maintained. Make any necessary repairs or upgrades to meet guest expectations. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service between stays. Take high-quality photos of the property for your listing.
  • Register your business: Apply for a business license with your city's finance department. This registers your short-term rental as a legal business. Expect to provide personal identification, property details, and pay a fee. If operating the rental from your home, you may need a Home Occupation Permit.
  • Obtain required permits: Submit any required short-term rental permit applications to your city. This may include a Zoning Clearance Form to verify your property is in an allowed area. Permit applications typically require proof of residency, property details, and an application fee. Allow ample time for processing.
  • Set up tax collection: Register to collect and remit transient occupancy taxes (TOT) in your city. TOT rates are typically around 14% of the listing price in Alameda County. You will need to file regular TOT returns, usually monthly or quarterly. Some listing platforms like Airbnb can collect and remit taxes on your behalf.
  • Create your listing: Once your property is ready and compliant, create a listing on popular short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. Write a compelling description, set competitive rates, and establish house rules. Be responsive to inquiries and booking requests.
  • Manage your bookings: Use a reliable system to track reservations, guest communication, and payments. Consider using short-term rental software to automate tasks and sync calendars across platforms. Have a plan for handling maintenance issues, guest complaints, and emergencies.
  • Comply with ongoing requirements: Keep your permit and license renewals up to date. Maintain accurate records of rental income and expenses for tax purposes. Regularly review city and county ordinances for any regulatory changes that may impact your business.

Some tips for success:

  1. Consult with experienced short-term rental operators or property managers for advice
  2. Price competitively while factoring in costs like cleaning, supplies, and vacancies
  3. Provide exceptional customer service to earn positive reviews and repeat guests
  4. Consider hiring a short-term rental management company if you need help

By following these steps and prioritizing compliance, you can launch and operate a successful short-term rental business in Alameda County. While the regulatory environment may be challenging compared to other markets, diligent operators can still find opportunities. Careful research and planning are essential to mitigate risk and optimize your rental's performance.

Who to Contact in Alameda County about Short-Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

For questions about short-term rental regulations and zoning in Alameda County, contact the relevant city departments:

City of Alameda

  • Planning Department: (510) 747-6805,
  • Finance Department: (510) 747-4881,

City of Oakland

  • Planning & Building Department: (510) 238-3911,
  • Finance Department: (510) 238-3704

City of Berkeley

  • Planning Department Land Use Division: (510) 981-7410,
  • Finance Department Revenue Development Division: (510) 981-7318,

City of San Leandro

Finance Department: (510) 577-3377,

For unincorporated areas of Alameda County, contact:

Housing and Community Development Department: (510) 670-5333,

Hosts may also find the following online communities and resources helpful:

Alameda County Hosts Forum on Airbnb:

East Bay Short Term Rental Alliance Facebook Group:

Bay Area Airbnb Hosts Meetup Group:

BiggerPockets Forums - Short-Term and Vacation Rental Discussions:

r/AirBnB subreddit:

By reaching out to the appropriate city contacts and connecting with experienced hosts in online communities, short-term rental operators in Alameda County can get their regulatory questions answered and learn best practices for running a successful and compliant rental business. It's important to stay informed of any changes to local ordinances that may impact short-term rentals.

What Do Airbnb Hosts in Alameda County on Reddit and Bigger Pockets Think about Local Regulations?

Airbnb hosts in Alameda County have shared their experiences and thoughts on local short-term rental regulations in various online forums:

On Reddit, u/Atul68 asked for help navigating Oakland's business rules for short-term rentals. They struggled to get clear answers from the city on zoning and minimum stay requirements. One commenter said the zoning office told them a 30-day minimum is required unless the property is a licensed hotel, motel, or B&B. However, the permits and finance departments seem to allow shorter stays with a special permit. The lack of clarity is causing confusion for hosts.

Another Redditor, u/jean, also found Oakland's rental regulations unclear on whether stays under 30 days are allowed for regular hosts (not hotels/B&Bs). They asked others to share what they've learned from the city as the zoning laws are "very difficult to decipher".

Hosts also discussed how Berkeley's rent control laws protect guests staying over 14 days, granting them tenant rights that make it riskier for hosts.

On BiggerPockets, a real estate investor asked about Airbnb opportunities in different parts of Charleston County, SC. Responders noted that Mount Pleasant has limited permits available, while the city of Charleston prohibits non-owner occupied rentals. Some suggested looking into unincorporated county areas and smaller towns like Summerville that may have fewer restrictions.

Another BiggerPockets thread discussed the profitability of Airbnb in San Jose, CA. The original poster said it's been working well for them with low vacancy rates. However, a responder pointed out that many cities are passing stricter short-term rental laws that can hurt profits compared to long-term renting.

So in summary, Airbnb hosts on Reddit and BiggerPockets are finding local regulations in Alameda County and the Bay Area confusing and restrictive. Cities like Oakland seem to have contradictory rules around short-term rentals that make it difficult for hosts to operate legally. Rent control laws can also introduce added risk. Hosts are strategizing about which jurisdictions are more favorable and watching for regulatory changes that could impact their businesses. Many crave clearer and more consistent policies from their local governments.

Disclaimer: While we here at BNBCalc strive to keep all of our regulation guides updated and accurate with all the latest local laws, we still do not suggest using them as your sole or primary source for local regulations. We also do not recommend you rely on the third-party sources we link to or reference, and we are not responsible for any of the information on these third-party sites. These guides are for entertainment purposes only and only provide basic information and should not be considered as legal advice.

We highly recommend directly contacting the responsible parties for each and hearing what their officials have to say. Ultimately, it's your responsibility as an investor to ensure you fully comply with the local laws, and it's best to speak with professionals before making an investment decision.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.