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Berkeley Short Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Berkeley, California

What are short term rental (Airbnb, VRBO) regulations in Berkeley, California?

Berkeley has extensive regulations for short term rentals found in the Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 23.314. These rules limit the number of nights a host can rent out their property when not present, set occupancy limits, levy taxes, and require registration and approval.

For example, if you want to rent out a spare room in your home while you are present, there are no night limits. However if traveling, you can only rent a spare room for 90 nights per year.

Entire home rentals have the same limit for absent hosts [1].The regulations also set an occupancy limit of 6 adults in a short term rental at any one time. In single family homes this applies property-wide, meaning you cannot rent multiple ADUs on one property to exceed 6 guests total [2].

Registration for short term rentals costs $220 plus a $5.50 fee, and hosts must collect and remit a 12% Transient Occupancy Tax and 2% enforcement fee [3]. Approval requires submitting documents proving primary residency, property owner consent if renting, proper zoning and other eligibility criteria [4].

On the BiggerPockets forum, hosts describe Berkeley's regulations as strict but say enforcement has increased. Some hosts have exited the market while others carefully follow the rules. One host was fined $8,000 for violations [5].

Starting a Short Term Rental Business in Berkeley

Operating a successful and legal short term rental (STR) in Berkeley requires proper planning and preparation. As an STR host, you'll need to register with the city, meet eligibility criteria, collect taxes, and follow local regulations.While requirements may seem extensive, they help create a fair system that allows residents to earn supplemental income while protecting housing availability and neighborhood character. By understanding the rules and completing all registrations and paperwork, you can launch a compliant, low-risk STR business.

Determine If Your Property Qualifies

Not all homes or units in Berkeley can operate as licensed STRs. Review zoning regulations to confirm your property's address falls within an approved residential area. The rental must also be your primary residence where you live for most of the year. Investment properties or secondary homes don't qualify under the city's home sharing regulations.

Gather Required Documents

You'll need several documents ready to complete the registration process including proof of ownership or signed approval from the landlord, $1 million liability insurance coverage, and copies of all deeds, leases, titles or mortgages associated with the property. Having these prepared in advance will streamline approval.

Understand All STR Rules

Take time to review Berkeley's STR policies in full. There are important restrictions around eligible rental periods, presence requirements, taxes and fees, parking limitations, and advertisement rules. Carefully read all regulations to avoid non-compliance issues later on.

Complete Registration and Pay Fees

The final step is completing Berkeley's STR registration application and paying the $220 non-refundable fee plus a $5.50 processing charge.

Short Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Berkeley

Operating a short term rental (STR) in Berkeley requires hosts to register with the city and obtain proper licensing. This crucial step enables hosts to legally list their properties on platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, and more.

Registration Eligibility

To qualify for registration, Berkeley requires the STR property to serve as your primary residence. Units rented out for less than 14 consecutive days are eligible under the STR definition. Tenants may also register with approval from their property owner.Registration FeesThe registration process comes with several mandatory fees:

  • $220 non-refundable application fee
  • $5.50 processing fee
  • Monthly enforcement fee equal to 2% of rental revenue

These fees help fund oversight and enforcement of STR regulations in Berkeley.

Securing an STR License

Along with paying registration fees, prospective hosts must submit documents verifying eligibility, insurance, approvals, and property details. Required paperwork includes:

  • Proof of primary residency
  • Property owner approval if a tenant
  • $1 million liability insurance
  • Confirmation the property lies in an approved residential zone

Upon approval, the city issues an official STR license connected to the property address. Licenses renew annually for a $225.50 fee.Registering an STR enables hosts to legally list and rent out their properties in Berkeley. The fees and paperwork involved demonstrate the city’s extensive regulations for short term rental businesses.

Required Documents for Berkeley Short Term Rentals

Prospective short term rental hosts in Berkeley must submit several key documents to register and certify their property with the city. Having these materials prepared ahead of time ensures a smooth application process.

Proof of Primary Residency

Since Berkeley prohibits non-hosted short term rentals rented for over 90 days per year, hosts must show the property is their primary residence.

Acceptable residency verification includes:

  • California driver's license or ID card with current address
  • Recent utility bill in the host's name
  • 2022 tax return showing the property address

Hosts should compile multiple documents clearly evidencing they live on-site the majority of the year.

Property Owner Approval

If the host rents rather than owns the property, written approval from the landlord is mandatory. An executed consent form is ideal, specifying:

  • Landlord contact information
  • Tenant name and address
  • Permission to operate a short term rental
  • Acknowledgement of all city regulations

Without this documentation, registration will not proceed.

$1 Million Liability Insurance

Hosts must maintain an active insurance policy that covers short term rental activities, with a minimum $1 million liability limit. Both the declaration page showing coverage details and a certificate of insurance naming the City of Berkeley as an interested party are required.

Policies through major homesharing platforms may qualify if documentation is provided.

Berkeley Short Term Rental Taxes

Operating a legal short term rental (STR) in Berkeley requires hosts to collect and remit several mandatory taxes and fees. Understanding these financial obligations is a key part of compliance.

Transient Occupancy Tax

The transient occupancy tax (TOT) applies to all Berkeley STRs. This is a 12% tax levied on the rent charged to guests for each booking. As an STR host, you must collect this 12% tax from guests as part of the booking payment. You are then responsible for remitting the TOT you collect to the city on a monthly basis.

Enforcement Fee

In addition to TOT, the city charges hosts a 2% enforcement fee based on rental revenue. This mandatory fee helps fund STR oversight and enforcement activities performed by the city. Like TOT, you must remit this 2% fee to Berkeley on a monthly basis.

Registration and Licensing Fees

Registering your STR also involves paying a $220 non-refundable application fee plus a $5.50 processing fee. These licensing fees support administration of the city's STR registration program. You must renew the registration annually for a fee.

As a short term rental host in Berkeley, staying on top of remitting TOT, enforcement fees, and registration/licensing fees is essential for legal compliance. Detailed guidance on paying these taxes and fees is provided during the registration process. Keeping accurate records is also vital to correctly calculating and reporting STR revenues each month.

California wide Short Term Rental Rules

Unlike strict local rules in cities like Berkeley, California has minimal statewide regulations that specifically target short term rental properties. The state leaves most policy decisions up to individual municipalities and counties. As a result, requirements can vary dramatically across different parts of California.

For example, major destinations like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco have extensive short term rental ordinances that include registration, taxes, zoning limitations, parking and noise stipulations, and restrictions on non-hosted rentals. Meanwhile, smaller towns may have no formal policies.

Common elements of local short term rental regulations in California include:

Registration and Fees - Most cities require hosts to register rental properties and pay annual licensing fees that can range from $50 to over $1000 per year. Registration helps cities track units, ensure safety standards, and collect taxes.

Taxes - Registered properties typically must collect and remit transient occupancy taxes (TOTs) of 10-15% on guest stays. These taxes fund public services and infrastructure. Some cities also charge additional fees.

Zoning - Cities often restrict short term rentals to specific residential zones and ban them in other areas to limit impacts. Some prohibit them broadly. Units must typically be the host's primary residence.

Limits on Unhosted Rentals - Many ordinances restrict non-hosted rentals with no resident present during stays. Hosted home shares tend to face fewer limitations.

Parking, Noise, and Nuisance Rules - Regulations frequently include standards around parking, noise limits, trash management and more to reduce neighborhood disruption. Fines for violations can be steep.

With California's relaxed statewide stance, short term rental rules end up varying widely based on the local jurisdiction. Hosts must research regulations carefully for each area they consider operating in. Non-compliance can spur complaints, fines, suspensions, and even lawsuits.

Does Berkeley strictly enforce STR rules?

The City of Berkeley pursues active and stringent enforcement of its short term rental (STR) regulations. The city employs multiple methods to identify illegal listings and levies substantial fines against violators.

Specifically, Berkeley operates a 24-hour hotline for community members to report suspected illegal rentals. Code enforcement staff routinely monitor hosting platforms and cross-reference listings against the city’s registry of approved STRs. When violations are identified, Berkeley issues administrative citations that carry fines of $1000 per day or more depending on offense severity and history.

The city also works directly with platforms like Airbnb to provide updated lists of legally registered STRs. Listings that do not appear in the registry may be removed from the platform. First-time violators are typically given warnings and a chance to comply before facing financial penalties.

However, Berkeley shows little leniency for hosts who repeatedly violate rules or refuse to register properly. The city actively pursues collection of unpaid fines through legal means if necessary. Officials emphasize that compliance supports provision of public services while non-compliance negatively impacts community members.

How to Start a Short Term Rental Business in Berkeley

Dreaming of launching a lucrative short term rental business in Berkeley? With proper planning and preparation, your home sharing venture can generate substantial supplemental income.Follow this straightforward 6-step process to get your STR enterprise up and running legally and smoothly:

Step 1: Assess Property Eligibility

Not all residential properties qualify for short term rental usage under Berkeley statutes. Carefully verify your home meets requirements regarding:

  • Primary residency status
  • Approved zoning designation
  • Insurance coverage
  • Property owner consent

Consult the municipal code or contact the planning department to confirm qualifications.

Step 2: Submit Registration Application

Submit a complete STR registration request through the online portal, including all mandated documentation. Pay the non-refundable $220 application fee plus $5.50 processing charge.

Step 3: Get Organized

Set up systems to efficiently manage bookings, pricing, cleaning, amenities, taxes and more. Utilize rental management software or create your own spreadsheets and schedules.

Step 4: List Your Property

Create appealing listings with optimal pricing on major hosting platforms like Airbnb, VRBO and Booking.com. Focus on showcasing your unique space and ideal guest experience.

Step 5: Welcome Your First Guests

Roll out the red carpet for visitors when they arrive. Provide local tips and helpful resources to maximize their Berkeley experience.

Step 6: Manage Ongoing Operations

Handle all guest communications promptly and resolve any issues immediately. Stay current on regulatory changes and permit renewals. Sustain fantastic reviews.

Who to contact in Berkeley about Short Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

Contact Berkeley's Planning Department Land Use Division with questions about regulations, eligibility, and zoning:

str@berkeleyca.gov or (510) 981-7410 [1].

What do Airbnb hosts in Berkeley on Reddit and Bigger Pockets think about local regulations?

Reviews from Berkeley hosts on Reddit and BiggerPockets provide insight into local attitudes regarding short term rental regulations. While perspectives vary, common themes emerge.

Overall, hosts generally agree Berkeley has extensive rules that must be followed for legal compliance. Many accept this as necessary for responsible operation, though some dissent exists. Taxes and fees are a frequent complaint, with hosts noting significant registration and occupancy costs that impact profit margins.

Most feedback focuses on navigating regulations successfully. Hosts share tips for qualifying properties, maximizing rental income within night limits, collecting taxes properly, and avoiding violations. Some brag of high occupancy despite restrictions, while warning others about enforcement risks.

A minority of hosts resent what they consider excessive regulation. A few admit violating rules to maximize revenue, despite ethical issues. However, most discussions encourage compliance. Experienced hosts urge new ones to follow every rule diligently, emphasizing Berkeley’s strict enforcement posture.

In summary, Berkeley hosts accept short term rental rules as an operational reality, albeit an expensive one. While the minority advocates defiance for economic gain, most commentary promotes legal rentals, pragmatic guidance, and caution about non-compliance penalties. This pragmatic perspective summarizes local attitudes among successful hosts toward Berkeley's stringent regulatory environment.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.