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State of the state: California short-term rental laws

Maureen Salahshoor Denver, CO

November 30, 2023

In this series of State of the State blog posts, we offer an overview of the short-term rental (STR) lodging tax obligations for certain states, along with the latest rules on STR operations.

The Golden State offers a prime locale for short-term rentals, with tourist destinations that range from iconic beaches and desert enclaves to wine country, ski resorts, and famous wilderness areas.

Generally, the state government leaves it up to local authorities to set rules for short-term rentals, and that applies to lodging taxes as well.

Short-term rental lodging taxes


California doesn’t have a statewide lodging tax (although that may not be the case forever). However, California law allows cities and counties to levy transient occupancy tax (TOT) on accommodations that are rented out for 30 days or less — and many of them do.

Tax registration and filing


California short-term rental operators may be required to register with local tax authorities, collect TOT from guests, and file TOT returns. The exact requirements are specific to each city or county.

Tax collection by short-term rental marketplaces


Some vacation rental marketplaces, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, collect local TOT on behalf of operators when the listing is booked. However, marketplaces don’t collect all lodging taxes in all locations, and operators are responsible for making sure they comply with lodging tax requirements.

Local short-term rental regulations


Debates about short-term rentals and how to regulate them have become high profile all over the country in recent years, and California is no exception. Local communities have been active in creating laws to govern the industry. Examples include:

·     Sonoma County revises STR rules

·     Santa Barbara beefs up enforcement

·     San Diego STR law finally goes into effect

📖 Read more


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