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

San Bernardino County, California

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What are Short-Term Rental (Airbnb, VRBO) Regulations in San Bernardino County, California?

San Bernardino County, located in Southern California, has specific regulations in place for short-term rentals (STRs) such as those listed on Airbnb and VRBO. These rules aim to balance the interests of property owners, guests, and the local community. Here's what you need to know about operating a short-term rental in San Bernardino County.

Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in San Bernardino County

To legally operate a short-term rental in San Bernardino County, property owners must obtain a Short-Term Residential Rental Unit Permit from the county's Code Enforcement division. The permit application process involves:

  • Submitting an online application through the county's EZ Online Permitting Portal
  • Paying the initial application fee of $667
  • Undergoing an exterior inspection by a Code Enforcement Officer to verify compliance with parking capacity and other rental standards
  • Certifying that the rental unit meets all required standards outlined in the county code and application packet

Permits must be renewed annually, which requires a $600 renewal fee and re-inspection. Operating without a valid permit can result in fines of up to $1,000 per day.

Once approved, hosts must include their permit number on any short-term rental listings, such as those on Airbnb. San Bernardino County also requires STR operators to collect a 7% Transient Occupancy Tax from guests and remit it to the county.

It's important to note that short-term rentals are only allowed in certain unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County, primarily in the mountain and desert regions. Some incorporated cities within the county may have their own STR ordinances.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirement in San Bernardino County

To legally operate a short-term rental in unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County, property owners must obtain a Short-Term Residential Rental Unit Permit from the county's Code Enforcement division. The application process involves several steps:

  1. Submit an online application through the county's EZ Online Permitting Portal.
  2. Pay the initial application fee of $667.
  3. Undergo an exterior inspection by a Code Enforcement Officer to verify compliance with parking capacity and other rental standards.
  4. Submit a completed Interior Checklist & Owner Acknowledgement to self-certify the interior meets required standards. These forms are available on the county's STR website.
  5. Once approved, add the issued permit number to any STR listings, such as on Airbnb.

The permit application review and processing typically takes about 1 week on average. However, there are two mandatory notification waiting periods that affect the total processing time:

  1. Project Notice: Surrounding property owners have 20 calendar days to submit comments after being notified of the STR application.
  2. Permit Issuance Notice: Surrounding property owners are notified that a permit was issued, triggering a 30-day appeal period. The STR permit is officially issued on the first business day after this appeal period ends.

STR permits must be renewed annually, which requires a $600 renewal fee and re-inspection. Any changes in ownership require submitting a new application, even if just the name changes but ownership responsibility hasn't.

Operating a short-term rental without a valid permit in San Bernardino County can result in fines of up to $1,000 per day. Failing to comply with the county's STR ordinances and standards may lead to additional penalties or revocation of the permit.

Required Documents for San Bernardino County Short-Term Rentals

To obtain a Short-Term Residential Rental Unit Permit in San Bernardino County, property owners must submit the following required documents:

  1. Completed Online Application: Submit the application through the county's EZ Online Permitting Portal. This application collects key information about the rental property, owner, and 24-hour local contact.
  2. Interior Checklist & Owner Acknowledgement: These self-certification forms, available on the county's STR website, verify the rental unit meets interior health and safety standards. The property owner must complete, sign, and submit these documents.
  3. Proof of Ownership: Applicants must demonstrate ownership of the rental property. This can be verified by county staff through property records. If ownership cannot be confirmed, additional documentation like a recorded grant deed may be requested.
  4. Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Registration Certificate: STR operators must register with the San Bernardino County Tax Collector's Office to collect the required 7% TOT from guests. Apply for the TOT certificate through the Tax Collector's website.
  5. Proof of Noise Monitoring Device (Optional): Installing an outdoor noise monitoring device qualifies the applicant for a one-time $150 permit fee credit. Verification of device installation must be submitted with the STR application to receive this discount.

Once issued, the STR permit and a "Good Neighbor" brochure must be prominently posted inside the rental unit. The brochure, provided by the county, outlines rules and expectations for STR guests.

These required documents help ensure short-term rentals in San Bernardino County meet established standards for permitting, health and safety, tax collection, and neighborhood compatibility. Failure to provide necessary documentation can result in application denial or fines for unpermitted operation.

San Bernardino County Short-Term Rental Taxes

When operating a short-term rental business in San Bernardino County, there are a few key taxes to be aware of:

Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT): San Bernardino County imposes a 7% Transient Occupancy Tax on the rental price (including cleaning fees) for stays of less than 30 consecutive days. STR operators must register for a TOT certificate with the County Tax Collector's Office and collect this tax from guests. The tax is remitted to the county quarterly using a special tax return form.

City Transient Occupancy Taxes: Some incorporated cities within San Bernardino County levy their own additional TOT on short-term rentals. For example, the city of Big Bear Lake has a 8% TOT in addition to the county's 7% TOT, for a total of 15%. Always check the specific tax requirements of the city where your STR is located.

Income Taxes: Income earned from short-term rentals is generally subject to federal and state income taxes. STR income and expenses are typically reported on IRS Schedule C or Schedule E, depending on the level of host involvement and services provided. California has a state income tax with rates ranging from 1-12.3% based on taxable income.

Hosts may be able to deduct many STR expenses to reduce their taxable rental income. Some common deductible expenses include:

  1. Mortgage interest and property taxes
  2. Maintenance, repairs and cleaning costs
  3. Utilities paid by host
  4. Insurance premiums
  5. Supplies, linens, and amenities provided to guests
  6. Depreciation of the rental property asset
  7. Fees paid to short-term rental platforms like Airbnb
  8. Host service fees, such as for property management

STR operators should always consult with a qualified tax professional to determine their specific tax obligations and deductions. Detailed record keeping is essential to substantiate income and deductions claimed on tax filings.

California Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

While most short-term rental regulations in California are determined at the city or county level, there are a few state laws that San Bernardino County hosts should be aware of:

Definition of a Short-Term Rental: California law defines a short-term rental as a residential property or portion of a property rented out for 30 consecutive days or less. This broad definition applies across the state, although some local jurisdictions may have additional criteria.

Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT): The state allows cities and counties to levy a TOT on accommodations rented for 30 days or less. While the state doesn't impose this tax directly, San Bernardino County and many of its cities do require short-term rental hosts to collect TOT from guests and remit it to the proper authorities.

Rental Agreements: California law distinguishes between lease terms exceeding 30 days ("standard rentals") and terms of 30 days or less ("short-term rentals"). Many state laws that protect standard rental tenants do not apply to short-term rentals. It's important for hosts to use rental agreements tailored specifically to short-term rentals.

Business Licenses: Short-term rental operators in California may need to obtain a business license from their local city or county. This is separate from any specific short-term rental permit that may be required.

Insurance: While not legally mandated, short-term rental hosts in California are strongly encouraged to obtain appropriate insurance coverage. Standard homeowners or renters insurance policies often do not cover commercial use of the property, such as short-term rentals.

Beyond these general state-level considerations, the bulk of short-term rental regulation in California happens at the local level. San Bernardino County, for example, requires a Short-Term Residential Rental Unit Permit for properties rented for 30 days or less in unincorporated mountain and desert areas. Hosts must meet occupancy limits, provide a 24-hour contact for complaints, and follow other county rules.

As local regulations can vary significantly across California, it's crucial for San Bernardino County hosts to closely review the specific requirements in their city or unincorporated area. Consulting with local officials and legal professionals can help ensure compliance with all applicable state and local short-term rental laws.

Does San Bernardino County Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions from Airbnb hosts on forums like Bigger Pockets and Reddit, it's clear that San Bernardino County takes a strict stance on enforcing short-term rental regulations, especially compared to many other California counties. The county is not particularly Airbnb-friendly and has cracked down hard on STR violations in recent years.

Hosts report the county proactively identifying unpermitted STRs by requesting booking data from platforms like Airbnb and cross-referencing it against their permit records. Those operating without a permit face stiff penalties, with fines of $1,000-$5,000 per violation.

Even permitted STRs are not immune from enforcement. One host shared their experience getting a $5,000 citation and having their STR permit revoked because a guest accidentally parked in a neighbor's driveway, violating the county's parking rules. Others mention the county banning all "alternative" STRs like RVs and trailers on private property with a "zero tolerance policy".

Despite the risks, some hosts still attempt to operate STRs in San Bernardino County without permits. However, getting caught seems increasingly likely as the county dedicates more resources to enforcement. One Redditor described racking up $20,000 in fines for just 8 unpermitted bookings.

While a few hosts are petitioning to relax the county's strict STR rules, most commenters push back on these efforts, arguing the regulations are needed to preserve housing and neighborhood character. The county's tough approach appears to have broad public support.

In summary, San Bernardino County is one of the strictest enforcers of STR regulations in California. Hosts face an uphill battle to operate profitably and legally here. The county's rigorous permitting process, steep fines, and proactive enforcement make it an unfriendly place for Airbnb-style rentals compared to other markets. Attempting to skirt the rules is a very risky proposition.

How to Start a Short-Term Rental Business in San Bernardino County

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

  1. Research local regulations: Thoroughly review San Bernardino County's short-term rental ordinances, which apply to rentals of 30 days or less in unincorporated mountain and desert areas. Understand the permitting requirements, occupancy limits, parking rules, and other standards you must meet.
  2. Obtain necessary permits: Apply for a Short-Term Residential Rental Unit Permit through the county's EZ Online Permitting Portal. Submit the required application, pay the $667 fee, and schedule an exterior inspection to verify compliance. The approval process includes mandatory notification periods that can take over 50 days.
  3. Prepare your property: Ensure your rental unit is safe, clean, and well-maintained. Provide essential amenities like linens, kitchenware, and toiletries. Install safety features like smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and first-aid kits. Consider adding amenities that appeal to your target guests, such as fast WiFi, streaming services, or outdoor spaces.
  4. Create a comprehensive listing: Craft an attractive, detailed listing on popular platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. Use high-quality photos, write compelling descriptions, and highlight your property's best features. Be transparent about your rental's rules, amenities, and any quirks or limitations.
  5. Set competitive rates: Research similar listings in your area to determine a competitive nightly rate. Consider using dynamic pricing tools that adjust rates based on demand, seasonality, and other factors. Offer weekly or monthly discounts to encourage longer stays, which can reduce turnover costs and vacancy risk.
  6. Develop a strong marketing strategy: In addition to listing on major platforms, create a dedicated website and social media presence for your rental. Invest in professional photography and copywriting to showcase your property's unique appeal. Consider paid advertising on Google, Facebook, or Instagram to reach your target audience.
  7. Automate and streamline operations: Use vacation rental software to manage bookings, guest communication, cleaning, and maintenance tasks. Set up automated messaging to welcome guests, provide check-in instructions, and request reviews. Hire reliable cleaners and maintenance staff, or consider using a vacation rental management company to handle day-to-day operations.
  8. Comply with tax requirements: Register with the San Bernardino County Tax Collector's Office to obtain a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Certificate. Collect the required 7% TOT from guests and remit it to the county quarterly. Consult with a tax professional to ensure you're properly reporting and paying all applicable taxes on your rental income.
  9. Focus on the guest experience: Provide exceptional customer service to earn positive reviews and repeat bookings. Respond promptly to guest inquiries, offer local recommendations, and address any issues or complaints quickly and professionally. Go above and beyond with thoughtful touches like welcome baskets, personalized notes, or local treats.
  10. Monitor your performance and adjust: Regularly review your booking metrics, revenue, and guest feedback to identify areas for improvement. Adapt your pricing, marketing, and operations based on what's working and what's not. Stay up-to-date on changes to local regulations and platform policies that could impact your business.

Starting a short-term rental business in San Bernardino County requires significant upfront work and ongoing management. However, by following these steps and prioritizing compliance, quality, and guest satisfaction, you can build a successful and rewarding venture in this popular California destination.

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

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

San Bernardino County Land Use Services Department

General Customer Service: (909) 884-4056

Email: shorttermrental@lus.sbcounty.gov

Office Locations:

  1. Valley: 268 W. Hospitality Ln., Suite 300, San Bernardino, CA 92415-0185
  2. High Desert: 15900 Smoke Tree St., Suite 131, Hesperia, CA 92345
  3. Low Desert: 63665 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

The Land Use Services Department handles short-term rental permits, inspections, and enforcement in unincorporated areas of the county. Their website (str.sbcounty.gov) provides detailed information on the permitting process, required documents, fees, and more.

San Bernardino County Code Enforcement

  1. 24/7 Short-Term Rental Complaint Hotline: 1-833-SBC-STR1 (1-833-722-7871)
  2. File an online complaint: https://lus.sbcounty.gov/code-enforcement/submit-a-code-complaint/

Code Enforcement investigates complaints related to short-term rentals, such as noise, parking, over-occupancy, and unpermitted rentals. Hosts and neighbors can report issues through the 24/7 hotline or online complaint form.

Online Communities for San Bernardino County Hosts

Airbnb Community Center - San Bernardino County Hosts Club: https://community.withairbnb.com/t5/San-Bernardino-County/gh-p/SanBernardinoCounty

Connect with local hosts to ask questions, get advice, and stay updated on regulations.

BiggerPockets Forums - Vacation Rental Discussions: https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/530-short-term-vacation-rental-discussions

Network with other short-term rental investors and operators, including those in the San Bernardino area.

Reddit - r/AirBnB: https://www.reddit.com/r/AirBnB/

Read posts and comments from hosts and guests about their Airbnb experiences, including discussions of local regulations and challenges.

By engaging with these county departments and participating in online host communities, you can stay informed about the evolving short-term rental landscape in San Bernardino County. Building relationships with other local hosts can provide valuable support as you navigate the regulatory environment.

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

Airbnb hosts in San Bernardino County have shared their experiences and opinions about local short-term rental regulations on forums like Reddit and BiggerPockets. Here are some key themes that emerge:

Strict enforcement and hefty fines: Several hosts report that San Bernardino County is cracking down hard on unpermitted STRs. One Redditor shared their "Airbnb nightmare" of being fined $20,000 by the county for operating without a permit, at a rate of $2,500 per booking. Others note the county is proactively identifying violators by cross-referencing Airbnb data against permit records.

Reasonable permitting process: While enforcement is strict, some hosts find the actual STR permitting process in San Bernardino County to be straightforward. A host near Landers called it "EASY" and relatively affordable at $667 for 2 years. However, a 45-day moratorium on new STR permits was recently enacted in areas like Lake Arrowhead, concerning some hosts.

Neighbor complaints and nuisances: STR growth has frustrated some long-term residents, who contact the county about issues like noise, parking, and trespassing. One host advised a concerned neighbor to report problems to the county's 24/7 STR complaint hotline to build a record. Another host was fined $5,000 and had their permit revoked after a guest parked in a neighbor's driveway.

Calls for owner responsibility: While some hosts feel "entrapped" by guest behavior violations, others argue STRs are a business and owners must take responsibility. As one Redditor put it, "You're the homeowner. You're the one legally liable for what happens on the property. That's the consequence of running a business out of a residential area."

Impact of added taxes: Some hosts worry that piling on more taxes, like a proposed 15% state levy on top of the county's existing 7% TOT, will make STRs unaffordable for guests and hurt small operators. A Long Beach host club is petitioning against this bill (SB 584).

Overall, San Bernardino County Airbnb hosts express a mix of frustration with strict enforcement and understanding of the need for sensible regulation. Many seem to accept the permitting process and TOT as costs of doing business, but are wary of additional taxes and penalties for guest violations. The STR debate remains contentious between hosts and impacted neighbors.

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.