Is AirBnB legal in your town? Know the rules before you rent

It seems like a simple proposition. You’ve got extra space – maybe it's an in-law suite, an apartment over the garage, a vacation home that sits empty six months out of the year.

Turning personal living space into a short-term rental via a company like Airbnb, HomeAway, or VRBO can be an easy way to add income to your budget.

But you need to be prepared to welcome strangers into your home, educate yourself on the rules and regulations of your state, and become your own best sales and marketing firm.


If you’re thinking about getting into the hospitality industry by turning your extra rooms (or properties) into accommodations for travelers, here are five basic tips to ensure that both you and your renters have a positive experience:

1. Know the law.

Cities and states are taking an interest in the short-term rental market. Some landlords have exploited the opportunity, evicting tenants in favor of earning the equivalent of a month’s rent in just a few nights. As a result consumer protections are kicking in. Los Angeles is considering an ordinance that would allow hosts to rent their homes for up to 120 days – provided they live there at least six months of the year.  New York and San Francisco are also cracking down on short-term rentals by imposing hefty fines on hosts who rent for less than 30 days at a time.

Whether you are planning to rent your entire space, or just a portion of it, make sure you check with your local officials, HOA, or building agent. Be aware of any local taxes or other requirements that may apply including zoning codes, business or rental licenses.


2. Know your market

Most home rental companies offer tips on pricing and marketing your home. Your goal is to notch good reviews and build a repeat business. Attracting renters starts with setting the right price for your property. Do some research on other rentals available in your area and set your nightly rate accordingly. Many rental sites have policies around how many times you can reject a request to rent before being removed from their listings. Write your ad to attract the kind of renter that you want in your home-- and be clear about any house rules.

3. Create an environment where anyone can feel at home.

Declutter by removing personal items, and stock your rental with basic necessities. Create a space where people can project their vacation fantasies. A good mattress, fluffy towels, personal items like shampoo and lotions, and a well-stocked kitchen with good appliances allow guests to pamper themselves. Providing basics like bottled water and good coffee can be a nice extra touch. Remember that often people who choose to rent in private homes instead of hotels want to feel like locals rather than tourists. Providing maps, lists of nearby restaurants and attractions allow your guests to be self-sufficient.

4. Be a gracious host.

Greet your renters when they arrive and leave a contact number where they can reach you. Be prepared to address any problems or concerns. Keep your plumber and electrician on speed dial. Accidents happen, so it’s best to remove any valuables or irreplaceable items from your rental property. Offering extras -- like bikes, lawn furniture, games, or use of the pool-- can elevate a simple space into a desirable vacation spot.


5. Be mindful of your neighbors.

This is particularly important if you are renting part of your apartment, condo, or townhouse. Make sure your guest understands the rules about noise, smoking, and shared spaces. Check your co-op board or lease to make sure there is no regulation against hosting.

Becoming an amateur inn-keeper can be both fun and profitable. Take a look at your space and be creative. You may find that others will love your home as much as you do.