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Ashford Short-Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Ashford, Washington

Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in Ashford

Ashford, Washington, is an attractive location for short-term rental businesses due to its proximity to Mount Rainier National Park. Visitors stay at Airbnbs and VRBOs in Ashford to enjoy the park's natural beauty and outdoor activities. The peak season is from June to September, with winter also popular for skiing and snowshoeing.

However, it's important to understand the regulations before starting an STR in Ashford. Ashford is located in Pierce County, which has specific rules for short-term rentals:

  • Hosts must obtain a business license from Pierce County
  • STRs must comply with zoning laws, including occupancy limits, parking requirements, and noise restrictions
  • Hosts are required to collect and remit lodging taxes to Pierce County

According to AirDNA, around 200-230 active STR listings are currently in the Packwood/Ashford area. Some residents have expressed concerns about the growth of STRs and their impact on housing availability and costs for long-term renters.

However, STR owner Ryan Southard, who operates four rentals in Packwood, believes shutting down STRs would not necessarily lead to more affordable housing. He notes that many STR properties are second homes transformed into Airbnbs, purchased by owners from Seattle and Portland who likely would not rent them long-term.

Lewis County is currently developing a 20-year Packwood Subarea Plan to address community concerns that will provide policy guidance on issues like STRs and housing. The planning process involves a series of public forums for residents to provide input.

When starting an STR business in Ashford, it's critical to carefully review all relevant county and state regulations. Some key steps include:

  1. Obtain required licenses and permits from Pierce County
  2. Ensure the property is in an allowed zoning district for STRs
  3. Comply with occupancy limits, parking requirements, and other zoning rules
  4. Collect and remit the Pierce County lodging tax (currently 3%)
  5. Maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance, as required by Washington state law
  6. Provide safety information to guests, including emergency contacts and fire escape routes

By following these guidelines and being sensitive to community concerns, STR hosts can legally operate successful rental businesses in Ashford while supporting the local tourism economy. Potential hosts should consult official county and state sources for the most current and complete regulatory information.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Ashford

To legally launch a short-term rental in Ashford, Washington, property owners must comply with the licensing requirements set forth by Pierce County. Here are the key steps:

  1. Obtain a Pierce County Business License
    -All STR operators must register their business with the Pierce County Auditor's Office and obtain a business license.
    -The license application requires basic information about the property owner, the rental property, and the local contact person.
  2. Submit a Short-Term Vacation Rental Affidavit
    -Property owners must complete and submit a Short-Term Vacation Rental Affidavit to the Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department.
    -The affidavit declares the owner's intent to use the property as an STR and provides contact information for the owner, local representative, and property management company (if applicable).
  3. Notify Neighboring Property Owners
    -STR operators are required to notify all neighboring property owners directly adjacent to the vacation rental property of their intent to operate an STR.
    -This notification helps ensure that neighbors are aware of the STR and have access to contact information in case of any concerns or issues.
  4. Provide a Good Neighbor Brochure to Renters
    -Owners must provide a Good Neighbor brochure to each renter, describing the appropriate etiquette for residing in a vacation rental.
    -The brochure covers topics such as noise, parking, garbage, pets, occupancy limits, and quiet hours to minimize the impact on surrounding residents.
  5. Comply with Pierce County Code Requirements
    -STR operators must review and comply with all applicable Pierce County code requirements for vacation rentals, as outlined in PCC 18A.37.040.
    -This includes occupancy limits, parking restrictions, and other operational standards to ensure the STR does not negatively impact the neighborhood.

Failure to obtain the required licenses and comply with county regulations may result in fines, penalties, and a cease and desist order for the STR operation. The Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department enforces these requirements and addresses any violations.

It's important to note that licensing requirements and regulations may change over time, so STR operators should stay informed and regularly check for updates from Pierce County. By following these licensing procedures and maintaining compliance with local rules, property owners can legally operate successful short-term rental businesses in Ashford.

Required Documents for Ashford Short-Term Rentals

Property owners must submit several required documents to the Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department to apply for a short-term rental license in Ashford, Washington. These documents ensure that the STR complies with local regulations and provides necessary information for enforcement and emergency purposes. The required documents include:

  1. Pierce County Business License Application
    -A completed business license application form from the Pierce County Auditor's Office.
    -The application must include the property owner's name, contact information, and the rental property address.
  2. Short-Term Vacation Rental Affidavit
    -A signed and notarized affidavit declaring the owner's intent to use the property as an STR.
    -The affidavit must provide contact information for the owner, local representative, and property management company (if applicable).
  3. Proof of Liability Insurance
    -Documentation showing that the STR property is covered by at least $1 million in liability insurance, as required by Washington state law.
    -The insurance policy must be maintained throughout the duration of the STR operation.
  4. Site Plan and Floor Plan
    -A detailed site plan showing the location of the STR property, parking areas, and any outdoor amenities such as decks or hot tubs.
    -A floor plan of the interior of the STR, indicating the number and location of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other living spaces.
  5. Occupancy Limit Calculation
    -A calculation of the maximum occupancy limit for the STR based on the number of bedrooms and the septic system capacity (if applicable).
    -The occupancy limit must comply with the standards set forth in Pierce County Code 18A.37.040.
  6. Parking Plan
    -A plan showing the number and location of off-street parking spaces available for STR guests.
    -The parking plan must demonstrate compliance with the minimum parking requirements outlined in the county code.
  7. Good Neighbor Brochure
    -A copy of the Good Neighbor brochure that will be provided to each STR renter, describing the appropriate etiquette for residing in a vacation rental.
    -The brochure should cover topics such as noise, parking, garbage, pets, occupancy limits, and quiet hours.
  8. Proof of Notification to Neighboring Property Owners
    -Documentation showing that the STR operator has notified all neighboring property owners directly adjacent to the vacation rental property of their intent to operate an STR.
    -This may include copies of letters sent to neighbors or signed acknowledgments from neighboring property owners.

By submitting these required documents, STR operators demonstrate their compliance with Pierce County regulations and provide necessary information for the county to monitor and enforce STR standards. Property owners should carefully review the current requirements and ensure that all documents are complete and accurate before submitting their STR license application to avoid delays or denials.

Ashford Short-Term Rental Taxes

Short-term rental operators in Ashford, Washington, are responsible for collecting and remitting several types of taxes:

  1. Washington State Sales Tax: The statewide sales tax rate is 6.5%, which applies to all short-term rental income. Operators must collect this tax from guests and remit it to the Washington State Department of Revenue.
  2. Pierce County Sales Tax: Pierce County, where Ashford is located, imposes an additional 1.6% sales tax on top of the state rate. This brings the total combined sales tax rate for Ashford short-term rentals to 8.1%.
  3. Pierce County Lodging Tax: Pierce County also levies a 2% lodging tax on all short-term rental income. This tax is in addition to the state and county sales taxes and must be collected from guests and remitted to the county.
  4. Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax: Short-term rental income is subject to Washington's B&O tax under the "Retailing" classification. The B&O tax rate for retailing is 0.471%, and it is paid by the operator and is not collected from guests. However, operators with under $90,000 in annual gross receipts may be eligible for the Small Business B&O Tax Credit.
  5. Income Taxes: While Washington State does not have a personal income tax, short-term rental income is still subject to federal income tax reporting. Operators should report their rental income and expenses on Schedule E of their federal tax return.

Ashford short-term rental operators need to keep detailed records of all income and expenses related to their rental business. This includes the gross rental income and any additional fees collected from guests, such as cleaning or pet fees, which are also subject to sales and lodging taxes.

Operators should also be aware that certain expenses related to their short-term rental business may be tax-deductible, such as mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and repairs. Keeping good records and working with a qualified tax professional can help ensure compliance with all applicable tax laws and maximize any available deductions.

Failure to properly collect and remit the required taxes can result in penalties and interest charges. By understanding and staying current with their tax obligations, Ashford short-term rental operators can avoid unnecessary financial and legal risks while contributing to important state and local revenue sources.

Washington Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

In addition to the specific regulations in Ashford and Pierce County, short-term rental operators in Washington must also comply with several statewide rules and requirements:

  1. Liability Insurance: All short-term rental operators in Washington are required to maintain at least $1 million in liability insurance coverage. This insurance must cover bodily injury and property damage sustained by guests and third parties as a result of the rental operation.
  2. Consumer Safety: Short-term rentals must meet all applicable building, health, and safety codes, including fire safety requirements. Operators must provide guests with working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. Emergency evacuation plans and contact information for local emergency services must also be prominently displayed in the rental unit.
  3. Discrimination and Accessibility: Short-term rental operators are subject to state and federal anti-discrimination laws, including the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Operators cannot discriminate against guests based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status. Rentals must also comply with accessibility requirements for guests with disabilities, such as providing accessible parking and accommodating service animals.
  4. Consumer Protection: Washington's Consumer Protection Act prohibits unfair or deceptive business practices that apply to short-term rental operators. Operators must accurately represent their rental properties in listings and advertisements, including any fees, charges, or restrictions. Guests must be provided with a written rental agreement that clearly outlines the terms and conditions of their stay.
  5. Land Use and Zoning: While specific zoning regulations for short-term rentals vary by locality, all operators must comply with their jurisdiction's land use and zoning laws. This may include restrictions on the number of rental units allowed in a particular area, occupancy limits, parking requirements, and noise ordinances. Operators should consult with their local planning department to ensure their rental property is in compliance with all applicable zoning regulations.
  6. Taxes and Licensing As previously mentioned, short-term rental operators must collect and remit all applicable state and local taxes, including sales tax, lodging tax, and B&O tax. Operators must also obtain any required state and local business licenses and permits, which may include a general business license and a specific short-term rental license.

Short-term rental operators can ensure they are operating legally and responsibly by complying with these statewide rules and requirements and the specific regulations in Ashford and Pierce County. Staying informed of any changes to state or local laws is also important, as the regulatory landscape for short-term rentals continues to evolve. Operators should consult legal and tax professionals for guidance on their situation to minimize risk and maintain compliance.

Does Ashford Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions in real estate investing forums like Bigger Pockets and Reddit, it appears that Ashford and Pierce County take a relatively balanced approach to enforcing short-term rental regulations compared to some other cities in Washington.

Several hosts have reported that while Pierce County does require STR operators to obtain licenses and comply with zoning requirements, the county is not overly aggressive in its enforcement efforts. One Bigger Pockets user shared their experience:

"I've been operating an Airbnb in Ashford for the past two years, and while I did have to go through the process of getting licensed and making sure I was in compliance with all the rules, I haven't had any issues with the county. As long as you follow the regulations and are a responsible host, they seem to take a fairly hands-off approach."

Another Reddit user commented:

"Compared to some other cities in Washington, like Seattle or Tacoma, Ashford is definitely more Airbnb-friendly. The regulations are not as strict, and the county seems to recognize the value that short-term rentals bring to the local economy, especially with all the tourism generated by Mount Rainier."

While some hosts may operate STRs in Ashford without fully complying with all the rules, the general consensus among Bigger Pockets and Reddit users is that it's not worth the risk. One host advised:

"I wouldn't recommend trying to fly under the radar with an unlicensed STR in Ashford. Even though enforcement might not be as aggressive as in some other places, you still run the risk of getting caught and facing fines or even having your operation shut down. It's better to just play by the rules and operate above board."

Overall, Ashford and Pierce County seem to strike a balance between regulating short-term rentals to protect public safety and neighborhood character, while still allowing responsible hosts to operate successful STR businesses. The county's approach appears to be more accommodating to STRs than some larger cities in Washington that have implemented more restrictive regulations or even bans on certain short-term rentals.

However, it's important to note that regulations can change over time, and enforcement priorities may shift. STR hosts in Ashford should stay informed of any updates to county or state rules and maintain open communication with local officials to ensure ongoing compliance and a positive relationship with the community.

How to Start a Short-Term Rental Business in Ashford

If you're interested in starting a short-term rental business in Ashford, Washington, here are the key steps to follow:

  1. Research local regulations: Familiarize yourself with Pierce County's specific rules for short-term rentals, including zoning restrictions, licensing requirements, and occupancy limits. Ensure your property is located in an area that allows short-term rentals and meets all necessary criteria.
  2. Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Register your business with the Washington State Department of Revenue and obtain a Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number. Apply for a business and short-term rental regulatory licenses (operator's licenses) from Pierce County. Schedule any required inspections, such as the Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) inspection, to ensure your property meets health and safety standards.
  3. Prepare your property: Make any necessary upgrades or repairs to ensure your rental is safe, comfortable, and attractive to guests. Install required safety features, such as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. Create a welcoming and well-equipped space that appeals to your target market, considering amenities like high-speed internet, a well-stocked kitchen, and comfortable furnishings.
  4. Set up your business operations: Choose a business structure, such as a sole proprietorship or LLC, and register with the appropriate state and local agencies. Open a separate bank account for your rental business to keep your finances organized. Establish a system for managing bookings, guest communication, cleaning, and maintenance.
  5. List your property on short-term rental platforms: Create attractive listings on popular platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, showcasing your property's unique features and amenities. Develop a competitive pricing strategy that accounts for seasonality, local demand, and operating costs. Establish clear house rules and booking policies to set expectations for guests and protect your property.
  6. Manage your bookings and guests: Respond promptly to inquiries and booking requests to secure reservations and build a positive reputation. Provide excellent customer service throughout the guest experience, from pre-arrival communication to post-stay follow-up. Arrange for regular cleaning and maintenance between bookings to ensure your property remains in top condition.
  7. Comply with tax requirements: Collect and remit all applicable state and local taxes, including sales tax and lodging tax, on your rental income. Keep accurate records of your income and expenses for tax purposes, and consider working with a tax professional to ensure compliance.
  8. Continually improve and adapt: Monitor your bookings, revenue, and guest feedback to identify areas for improvement and optimize your business over time. Stay informed about changes in local regulations, market trends, and best practices in the short-term rental industry to remain competitive and compliant.

By following these steps and staying committed to providing a high-quality guest experience, you can build a successful short-term rental business in Ashford. Remember to prioritize compliance with local regulations and maintain open communication with Pierce County officials to ensure the long-term viability of your venture.

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

If you have questions or concerns about short-term rental regulations and zoning in Ashford, several key contacts at the county and state level can provide guidance and assistance:

  1. Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department: The Planning and Public Works Department is responsible for administering and enforcing zoning regulations, including those related to short-term rentals.
    Contact: Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department
    Phone: (253) 798-7210
    Email: pals@piercecountywa.gov
  2. Pierce County Auditor's Office: The Auditor's Office handles business licensing and can assist with questions about obtaining a short-term rental operator's license.
    Contact: Pierce County Auditor's Office, Licensing Division
    Phone: (253) 798-7445
    Email: pcauditor@piercecountywa.gov
  3. Washington State Department of Revenue: The Department of Revenue administers the state's tax laws and can provide information about sales tax and other tax requirements for short-term rentals.
    Contact: Washington State Department of Revenue, Taxpayer Services
    Phone: (360) 705-6705
    Email: dor@dor.wa.gov
  4. Washington State Department of Health: The Department of Health oversees regulations related to public health and safety, including requirements for drinking water, septic systems, and food safety in short-term rentals.
    Contact: Washington State Department of Health, Environmental Public Health Division
    Phone: (360) 236-3330
    Email: ehp.ts@doh.wa.gov
  5. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: The local health department can provide guidance on health and safety requirements for short-term rentals, such as occupancy limits and sanitation standards.
    Contact: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Environmental Health Division
    Phone: (253) 798-6500
    Email: ehshortterm@tpchd.org

In addition to these official contacts, consider reaching out to local short-term rental associations or host groups in the Ashford area. These organizations can provide valuable insights and support from experienced operators who are familiar with the local regulatory landscape.

When contacting any of these agencies or organizations, be prepared to provide specific details about your property and your plans for operating a short-term rental. The more information you can provide upfront, the more targeted and helpful the guidance you receive will be.

Remember that regulations and requirements can change over time, so staying in touch with these contacts and regularly reviewing the latest information on county and state websites is important. Building positive relationships with local officials and staying proactive about compliance can help ensure the long-term success of your short-term rental business in Ashford.

What Do Airbnb Hosts in Ashford on Reddit and Bigger Pockets Think about Local Regulations?

Airbnb hosts in Ashford have shared their experiences and opinions about local short-term rental regulations on popular online forums like Reddit and Bigger Pockets. Here are a few notable examples:

Reddit user "AshfordSTRHost" in the r/AirbnbHosts subreddit:

  • Shared their positive experience working with Pierce County officials to obtain the necessary licenses and permits for their short-term rental.
  • Emphasized the importance of being proactive and communicating openly with local authorities to ensure compliance and avoid any issues.
  • Noted that while the licensing process can be time-consuming, it's ultimately manageable for hosts who are committed to operating responsibly.

Bigger Pockets user "MountainViewCabin" in the "Short-Term Rental Discussions" forum:

  • Discussed the impact of Pierce County's zoning restrictions on the location and density of short-term rentals in Ashford.
  • Expressed appreciation for the county's efforts to balance the needs of STR operators with the concerns of long-term residents and local businesses.
  • Suggested that the regulations help to maintain the character and quality of life in Ashford while still allowing for a thriving STR market.

Reddit user "RainierRetreat" in the r/AirbnbRegulations subreddit:

  • Shared their experience navigating the insurance requirements for short-term rentals in Washington state.
  • Advised other hosts to carefully review their insurance policies and ensure they have adequate liability coverage that specifically includes short-term rental activities.
  • Recommended working with an insurance agent who specializes in vacation rental properties to find the best coverage options.

Bigger Pockets user "CascadesCabin" in the "Washington State Real Estate Investing" forum:

  • Discussed the tax implications of operating a short-term rental in Ashford and Washington state more broadly.
  • Emphasized the importance of accurately tracking income and expenses, and setting aside funds to cover tax obligations like sales tax and lodging tax.
  • Suggested working with a qualified tax professional who has experience with short-term rental businesses to ensure compliance and maximize deductions.

These posts highlight some of the key considerations and experiences of Airbnb hosts in Ashford when it comes to local regulations. While opinions may vary, there seems to be a general consensus that Pierce County's regulations, while sometimes complex, are ultimately manageable and help to ensure a balanced and sustainable STR market in the area.

Hosts emphasize the importance of being proactive, communicating with local officials, and staying informed about regulatory requirements. They also highlight the value of working with professional service providers, like insurance agents and tax advisors, to navigate the specific challenges of operating a short-term rental business in Ashford.

As with any online forum, it's important to take individual opinions with a grain of salt and verify information with official sources. However, these discussions can provide valuable insights and perspectives from experienced hosts who have successfully navigated the regulatory landscape in Ashford.

Disclaimer: While we here at BNBCalc strive to keep all of our city 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 city 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.