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Bexar County, Texas Short-Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Bexar County, Texas

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What are Short-Term Rental (Airbnb, VRBO) Regulations in Bexar County, Texas?

Short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO have become increasingly popular in Bexar County, Texas. However, operating an STR comes with various regulations that owners must follow. These rules are typically outlined in zoning codes, planning codes, county ordinances, and discussed on real estate forums. Let's dive into the key regulations for STRs in Bexar County.

Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in Bexar County

To legally operate an STR in Bexar County, owners must:

  • Obtain a permit from the City of San Antonio if the property is located within city limits. Properties outside city limits but within Bexar County do not need a city permit, but must still set up a Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) account with the city.
  • Collect and remit the 9% San Antonio HOT (7% general occupancy tax + 2% Convention Center tax) and the 1.75% Bexar County HOT monthly, even if there is no revenue. The city collects the county HOT on behalf of Bexar County.
  • Register for a HOT account number through the city's online payment portal administered by Avenu Insights & Analytics. File monthly HOT reports online, even if the STR has not been listed or generated revenue yet.
  • Maintain liability insurance sufficient for guest personal injury liability. The city does not specify a required coverage amount.
  • Follow safety requirements including a 2A:10B:C fire extinguisher, working smoke and CO detectors, primary and secondary exits from sleeping areas, and a posted evacuation plan.

Bexar County does not have its own STR permit, but STRs must still comply with applicable regulations. Owners should review any lease agreements, HOA rules, or deed restrictions that may prohibit or restrict STR use.

Failing to comply with STR regulations can result in fines, penalties, and interest on unpaid taxes. One Airbnb host on Bigger Pockets shared how they were unaware of the HOT filing requirements and now owe back taxes, penalties, and interest, putting them "very much in the negative."

The rise of STRs has also impacted Bexar County's housing market. A Reddit post noted that in June 2023, the U.S. had almost twice as many Airbnbs as houses for sale, driving up home prices due to scarcity from STRs. In San Antonio, Airbnb revenues were down about 43% year-over-year as of June 2023.

Overall, it's crucial for Bexar County STR owners to thoroughly research and comply with all applicable regulations. The Short Term Rental Association of San Antonio (STRASA) provides educational resources and advocacy for STR owners navigating these rules. With proper licensing, tax compliance, and adherence to safety standards, STRs can be a successful business venture in Bexar County.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirements in Bexar County

While Bexar County itself does not require a specific short-term rental permit, STRs located within San Antonio city limits must obtain a permit from the City of San Antonio. However, all STRs in Bexar County, regardless of location, must set up a Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) account with the City of San Antonio's Finance Department, as the city collects HOT on behalf of the county.

To legally operate an STR in Bexar County, owners must:

  1. Register for a HOT account number through the City of San Antonio's online payment portal administered by Avenu Insights & Analytics
  2. File monthly HOT reports online, even if the STR has not been listed or generated revenue yet
  3. Collect and remit the 9% San Antonio HOT (7% general occupancy tax + 2% Convention Center tax) and the 1.75% Bexar County HOT monthly, even if there is no revenue
  4. Maintain liability insurance sufficient for guest personal injury liability, though the city does not specify a required coverage amount
  5. Follow safety requirements including a 2A:10B:C fire extinguisher, working smoke and CO detectors, primary and secondary exits from sleeping areas, and a posted evacuation plan

For STRs within San Antonio city limits, a permit from the City of San Antonio's Development Services Department is also required. The permit application can be submitted online, costs $100 per unit, and is typically processed within 5 business days. Permits are valid for 3 years and are non-transferable.

Failing to comply with STR regulations, including operating without a permit or not paying HOT, can result in fines, penalties, and interest on unpaid taxes. The City of San Antonio encourages reporting unpermitted STRs or problems with existing ones to the Code Enforcement Division.

In summary, while Bexar County does not have its own STR permit, all STRs in the county must register for a HOT account, file monthly tax reports, and remit applicable hotel taxes to the City of San Antonio. Those within city limits must also obtain a city STR permit. Noncompliance can lead to financial penalties.

Required Documents for Bexar County Short-Term Rentals

To legally operate a short-term rental in Bexar County, owners must obtain and submit several required documents. These ensure compliance with local regulations and establish the property's eligibility for STR use. The key documents include:

  1. Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) Account Registration: All STRs in Bexar County must register for a HOT account number through the City of San Antonio's online payment portal, even if the property is located outside city limits. This allows for proper reporting and remittance of the 9% San Antonio HOT and 1.75% Bexar County HOT. Registration is done through the Avenu Insights & Analytics system contracted by the city.
  2. Proof of Primary Residence (Type 1 STRs only): For Type 1 STRs where the owner or operator resides on the property, proof of primary residence must be provided. Acceptable documentation includes a homestead exemption, vehicle registration, or a valid permanent driver's license showing the STR address. Voter registration cards alone are insufficient and must be coupled with another form of verification.
  3. Short-Term Rental Permit Application (San Antonio only): STRs within San Antonio city limits must submit a permit application to the Development Services Department (DSD). The application requires property details, type of STR (Type 1 or Type 2), and owner/operator contact information. The permit costs $100 per unit and is valid for 3 years.
  4. Liability Insurance Policy: The City of San Antonio requires STR hosts to maintain liability insurance sufficient for guest personal injury liability. While no specific coverage amount is stipulated, the policy must adequately protect guests.
  5. Evacuation Plan: An evacuation plan must be visibly posted in each STR unit. This plan should clearly indicate primary and secondary exits from sleeping areas and the overall property.

These documents help ensure STRs in Bexar County operate legally and responsibly. Failure to obtain and submit required documentation can result in fines, penalties, and legal issues. For further assistance, STR owners can contact the City of San Antonio's DSD and Finance Department, or consult with the Short Term Rental Association of San Antonio (STRASA).

Bexar County Short-Term Rental Taxes

Short-term rental owners in Bexar County must navigate various taxes at the city, county, and state levels. Understanding these tax obligations is crucial for legal compliance and the financial health of your rental business. Here's a breakdown of the key taxes applicable to STRs in Bexar County:

San Antonio Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT): The City of San Antonio imposes a 9% HOT, which consists of a 7% general occupancy tax and an additional 2% for the Convention Center expansion. This tax applies to all STRs within San Antonio city limits .

Bexar County HOT: On top of the city tax, Bexar County levies a 1.75% HOT. The City of San Antonio collects this tax on behalf of the county .

Texas State Hotel Occupancy Tax: STR owners must also pay a 6% state occupancy tax directly to the Texas Comptroller's Office. This is in addition to the city and county taxes .

In total, STR owners in San Antonio are responsible for a combined 16.75% in occupancy taxes (9% city + 1.75% county + 6% state). It's essential to register for a HOT account, file monthly tax reports, and remit these taxes on time to avoid penalties and interest.

Owners outside San Antonio city limits but within Bexar County are still required to collect the 1.75% county HOT and 6% state tax, totaling 7.75%.

Tax Deductions and Write-Offs

While taxes can seem daunting, STR owners can take advantage of various deductions to reduce their tax liability. Some key write-offs include:

  1. Property Taxes: The entire amount of property taxes paid on a rental property can be deducted.
  2. Depreciation: Owners can depreciate their rental property over 27.5 years, providing an annual deduction that lowers taxable income.
  3. Maintenance and Repairs: Expenses for maintaining and repairing the property to keep it in rentable condition are fully deductible.
  4. Insurance: Premiums paid for rental property insurance can be written off.
  5. Marketing and Advertising: Costs associated with promoting the rental property, such as platform fees, are deductible.
  6. Travel Expenses: Travel costs incurred for managing the rental property, like maintenance visits, can be deducted.

Other potential deductions include cleaning expenses, home office expenses, and legal and professional fees. Thorough record-keeping and consulting with a tax professional can help maximize your deductions while ensuring compliance.

By understanding the applicable taxes and strategically utilizing deductions, Bexar County STR owners can optimize their rental business's profitability while meeting all legal obligations. Staying informed and proactive about these financial aspects is key to success in the dynamic world of short-term rentals.

Texas-Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

While short-term rental regulations in Texas are primarily determined at the city level, there are a few state-wide rules that Bexar County hosts must follow.

The most significant state-level requirement is the Texas Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT). Hosts of short-term rentals are subject to the state HOT of 6% for stays under 30 consecutive days. This tax is in addition to any applicable city and county taxes. In Bexar County, the total occupancy tax is 16.75% (6% state + 9% San Antonio + 1.75% Bexar County).

To comply with state tax laws, short-term rental operators must register with the Texas Comptroller's Office. This allows them to legally collect the state HOT from guests. Hosts are responsible for remitting the state tax to the Comptroller's Office on a quarterly basis, even if they had no revenue for that period.

Some short-term rental platforms like Airbnb collect and remit state HOT on behalf of hosts in Texas. However, hosts are still required to register with the Comptroller's Office and file quarterly HOT reports. If a platform does not collect the tax, the host must do so themselves.

At the state level, Texas defines a short-term rental as a residential property rented for less than 30 consecutive days. This broad definition aligns with how most cities classify short-term rentals. However, cities are free to layer additional licensing, zoning, and operational requirements on top of this.

A 2018 Texas Supreme Court case affirmed that short-term rentals are a residential use of property. This ruling limits the ability of homeowners associations (HOAs) to restrict short-term rentals simply for not being "residential" in nature. However, HOAs can still ban or regulate STRs through their bylaws and covenants.

In summary, while Texas is relatively hands-off with short-term rental regulations compared to other states, Bexar County hosts must still register with the Comptroller's Office and collect the 6% state HOT. Being aware of these state-level requirements, in addition to San Antonio and Bexar County rules, is essential for legal compliance.

Does Bexar County Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions among hosts on platforms like BiggerPockets and Reddit, Bexar County appears to be relatively strict in enforcing short-term rental regulations compared to other cities and counties. While San Antonio and Bexar County have not banned STRs outright, they do require hosts to follow specific rules and obtain proper permits.

The City of San Antonio actively enforces its STR ordinance, which mandates a permit for properties within city limits. One host on BiggerPockets shared their experience receiving a letter from the city stating their property was not zoned for multi-unit use and needed to be reconfigured for single-family occupancy to continue operating as an STR.

Bexar County also requires all STR hosts to register for a Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) account and file monthly tax reports, even if the property is outside San Antonio city limits. Failure to comply can result in penalties and interest on unpaid taxes. A host on BiggerPockets expressed frustration with trying to navigate the county's HOT requirements and lack of clear guidance, ultimately finding themselves "very much in the negative" due to accumulated penalties.

While some hosts may attempt to operate under the radar, Bexar County's enforcement efforts make it difficult to do so long-term without facing consequences. The county's strict approach contrasts with more Airbnb-friendly cities that have taken a hands-off approach to regulation.

Overall, Bexar County cannot be considered particularly Airbnb-friendly given its stringent permit requirements, tax obligations, and enforcement actions. Hosts looking to operate STRs in the area must be diligent in understanding and complying with all applicable regulations to avoid legal and financial repercussions. The consensus among hosts is that operating an STR in Bexar County requires careful planning and adherence to the rules, as the county does not hesitate to crack down on non-compliant properties.

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

Starting a short-term rental business in Bexar County requires careful planning and adherence to local regulations. Follow these steps to successfully launch your STR venture:

Research local regulations: Familiarize yourself with Bexar County's STR ordinances, zoning restrictions, and permitting requirements. If your property is located within San Antonio city limits, you'll need to obtain a permit from the City's Development Services Department. Properties outside city limits but within Bexar County don't need a city permit but must still register for a Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) account. Thoroughly review the City of San Antonio's STR fact sheet and attend local workshops or info sessions to fully understand the regulatory landscape.

Determine your STR type: Bexar County recognizes two types of STRs. Type 1 is owner-occupied and has no density limitations. Type 2 is non-owner-occupied and subject to density caps of 12.5% of units on a block face. Multi-family Type 2 STRs are limited to 12.5% of the total units on the property. If you plan to operate a Type 2 STR and the density cap has been reached, you'll need a special exception from the Board of Adjustment. Factor this into your timeline.

Register for a HOT account: All STRs in Bexar County must register for a HOT account with the City of San Antonio's Finance Department, as the city collects taxes on behalf of the county. Register through the online payment portal administered by Avenu Insights & Analytics. Don't wait until you receive your STR permit to register and start filing HOT reports. You must file monthly even if you have no revenue for that period.

Obtain necessary permits: If your STR is located in San Antonio, apply for a permit through the Development Services Department. Gather required documents like proof of primary residence (for Type 1), a sketch or floorplan of the rental space, and the HOT account number. Pay the $100 permit fee. Permits are issued within 5 business days of receiving a complete application. Build this into your launch timeline and apply early to avoid delays.

Prepare your space: Ensure your STR meets all safety requirements, including working smoke and CO detectors, fire extinguishers, and clearly marked exits. Create a welcoming space with clean linens, toiletries, and other amenities. Consider hiring a professional photographer to showcase your rental. Develop a comprehensive house manual with check-in/out instructions, house rules, Wi-Fi password, and local recommendations to create a seamless guest experience.

List your property: Once permitted, create listings on popular STR platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. Craft an enticing description, use high-quality photos, and set competitive rates. Be responsive to inquiries and prioritize guest communication. Automate your bookings with a channel manager to sync calendars across multiple platforms and avoid double bookings.

Manage your operations: Establish efficient systems for cleaning, maintenance, and guest support. Consider hiring a reputable STR management company if you prefer a hands-off approach. Use guest feedback to continuously improve your rental and maintain a high rating. Promptly address any issues or concerns to ensure a positive experience.

By following these steps and staying informed about local regulations, you'll be well-positioned to launch a successful STR business in Bexar County. Remember, compliance and guest satisfaction are key to long-term success in this dynamic industry.

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

If you have questions about short-term rental regulations, permits, or zoning in Bexar County, here are the key contacts and resources:

City of San Antonio Development Services Department (DSD): For properties within San Antonio city limits, contact the DSD for questions about STR permits, zoning, and compliance.

  1. Phone: 210-207-1111
  2. Email: DSDPermitInfo@sanantonio.gov
  3. Address: 1901 S. Alamo, San Antonio, TX 78204
  4. Website: www.sanantonio.gov/DSD/Resources/STR

City of San Antonio Finance Department: All STRs in Bexar County must register for a Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) account with the city's Finance Department, as they collect taxes on behalf of the county.

  1. Phone: 210-207-8667
  2. Email: FinanceSTR@sanantonio.gov
  3. Website: www.sanantonio.gov/Finance/Taxes-Fees/HOT/STR

Short-Term Rental Association of San Antonio (STRASA): This local organization provides educational resources, advocacy, and community for STR hosts in the San Antonio area. They offer workshops, social events, and a member directory.

  1. Email: info@strassociationofsa.com
  2. Website: www.strassociationofsa.com

Bexar County Fire Marshal's Office: Contact the Fire Marshal for questions about fire and life safety requirements for STRs in unincorporated Bexar County.

  1. Phone: 210-335-0300
  2. Email: FireMarshal@bexar.org
  3. Address: 9810 Southton Road, San Antonio, TX 78223

Hosts can also connect with fellow operators and get peer advice through online communities:

  1. Airbnb Community Center - San Antonio & Austin: community.withairbnb.com/t5/San-Antonio-Austin/bd-p/San-Antonio
  2. BiggerPockets Forum - Short-Term Rentals: www.biggerpockets.com/forums/530-short-term-rentals
  3. San Antonio Short Term Rental Alliance Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/sanantoniostrs

By engaging with these contacts and communities, Bexar County STR hosts can stay informed about evolving regulations, get answers to their questions, and connect with the local host community for support and advice. Proactive communication is key to ensuring compliance and success in this dynamic industry.

What Do Airbnb Hosts in Bexar County on Reddit and BiggerPockets Think about Local Regulations?

Airbnb hosts in Bexar County have shared their experiences and thoughts on local short-term rental regulations on platforms like Reddit and BiggerPockets. Here are some key insights from these discussions:

Confusion over Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) requirements: In a BiggerPockets forum post titled "Information about HOT tax for my Airbnb in San Antonio!", a host expressed confusion about the monthly HOT reporting and payment process. They were unaware that they needed to remit the 9% San Antonio HOT and 1.75% Bexar County HOT monthly, resulting in penalties and interest. The host sought guidance from fellow hosts on what qualifies as taxable revenue and how to navigate the reporting process.

Concerns about non-compliance among hosts: A Reddit post in r/sanantonio titled "City not doing anything about airbnb hosts not paying occupancy tax?" highlighted a host's frustration with the perceived lack of enforcement. The host, who had registered with the city and was paying occupancy taxes, estimated that 90% of other hosts were not complying. They questioned why the city was not taking action against non-compliant hosts.

Debating the profitability of STRs in San Antonio: In an r/AirBnB post titled "How lucrative is AirBnB in San Antonio, TX?", a prospective host sought advice on whether to pursue a short-term or long-term rental strategy. They expressed concerns about the impact of HOT on profits and the potential for low occupancy rates. Commenters suggested using data tools like AirDNA to assess demand and comparing the projected profitability of each rental approach.

Strategies for success in the San Antonio market: A BiggerPockets forum thread titled "San Antonio short-term rental" discussed the viability of STRs in the city. One host noted that areas near downtown benefit from both tourism and the convention business, with multiple events happening each week. They emphasized the importance of location and meeting the needs of target guests, such as families attending military graduations.

These discussions highlight the challenges Bexar County hosts face in understanding and complying with local regulations, particularly around occupancy taxes. While some hosts are diligent about registration and reporting, others may be operating under the radar. The profitability of STRs in the San Antonio market is a common concern, with hosts weighing factors like location, amenities, and target audience to optimize their performance.

Overall, the host community appears to be grappling with the complexities of local regulations and seeking guidance from peers to navigate the requirements successfully. Clearer communication from the city and county, along with more consistent enforcement, could help level the playing field and ensure greater compliance among Bexar County's STR operators.

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.

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Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.