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Hosting short-term guests can be a great source of income, but you need to do your homework. Some communities have set restrictive Airbnb HOA rules to try to discourage short-term rentals. If you’re looking to start renting or are considering buying a second property, check your Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) for the following.

Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Use

A common CC&R clause is a blanket ban on commercial activities. Usually, this is directed at things such as noisy activities or having clients coming and going from your home, but you should still look into it.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled that short-term rentals don’t violate a general ban on commercial activities. However, your CC&Rs may contain more restrictive wording, or the law in your area may be different.

Restrictions on Length of Stay

HOA rules may dictate that rentals must be for at least a minimum number of days or no more than a maximum number of days. A minimum stay reduces the number of people coming and going through a community. Maximum stays are usually imposed because HOAs want full background and financial checks on long-term tenants. You should also check your local laws for when tenant rights kick in.

Guest Registration

Communities like to know who is living in each unit and often impose requirements such as background checks on residents. Airbnb renters who stay a night or two are often total strangers.

The HOA may require owners to register all guests or those staying longer than a certain number of days. Depending on the process, especially if you must go to the office in person, this could make frequent short-term rentals impractical.

HOA Insurance Requirements

There are two potential mishaps you need to insure against — property damage and injuries to your guests. Whether you purchase your own homeowner’s insurance policy or your HOA has blanket coverage for all units, short-term rentals may not be covered. This could leave you personally liable for any damages or injuries.

For this reason, many HOAs that allow short-term rentals require you to purchase supplemental insurance coverage. Even if they don’t, it’s still a good idea to get it to protect your own finances. Some services, such as Airbnb, automatically provide coverage.

Additional Fees

In addition to outright restrictions, some associations choose to charge a fee instead. This is intended to offset the additional burden that short-term renters impose on a community.

Fees might be payable annually, on a per-rental basis, or for use of certain amenities, such as parking or recreation areas.

Ability to Amend CC&R Provisions

HOA rental restrictions and other HOA rules are not set in stone. You should also look into the amendment process, especially if you’re in an established community that may react negatively to Airbnb rentals.

Most important is how many votes does an amendment take — a simple majority or a higher percentage? Also look for special provisions, such as whether there’s a delay before an amendment can take effect or whether existing owners are entitled to be grandfathered in when new rules are created.

Local Government Requirements

Your city, county, or state government laws and ordinances may also impose restrictions even if your HOA rules are silent. Many local governments post their regulations on Municode, or you can contact them directly.

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