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Fort Smith Short Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Fort Smith, Arkansas

What are short term rental (Airbnb, VRBO) regulations in Fort Smith,Arkansas?

Are you considering starting a short-term rental business in Fort Smith, Arkansas? It's crucial to understand the local regulations and requirements before listing your property on platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo. In this article, we'll provide a comprehensive overview of the short-term rental landscape in Fort Smith, including licensing requirements, taxes, and zoning rules.

We'll also share insights from local hosts and provide step-by-step guidance on how to launch your short-term rental business in compliance with Fort Smith's regulations. Whether you're a seasoned host or new to the industry, this article will give you the information you need to navigate the short-term rental market in Fort Smith with confidence.

Starting a Short Term Rental Business in Fort Smith

Are you considering starting a short-term rental (STR) business in Fort Smith, Arkansas? With the rise of popular platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo, many property owners are exploring this lucrative opportunity. The good news is that Fort Smith allows STRs, providing a path for entrepreneurs to enter this growing market.

However, before diving in, it's crucial to understand the local regulations surrounding short-term rentals. The city's zoning code defines an STR as a "temporary use" of land that is "short-term in nature" and does not involve the construction of a permanent structure or long-term commitment of the property.

While this definition provides a foundation for operating an STR in Fort Smith, it's essential to research further and ensure compliance with any specific rules or requirements. By familiarizing yourself with the local regulations, you can start your short-term rental business on a solid footing and avoid potential pitfalls down the road.

In the following sections, we'll explore the licensing requirements, necessary documents, taxes, and other key aspects of running an STR in Fort Smith. Whether you're a seasoned real estate investor or a first-time host, this guide will provide valuable insights to help you navigate the local short-term rental landscape and set your business up for success.

Short Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Fort Smith

According to our research into Fort Smith's city ordinances and zoning code, there do not appear to be any specific licensing requirements for operating a short-term rental (STR) like an Airbnb or Vrbo. This means that hosts in Fort Smith likely do not need to obtain a special permit or license from the city solely for the purpose of renting out their property on a short-term basis.

However, this does not necessarily mean that there are no other regulatory requirements for STRs in Fort Smith. As with most cities, property owners may still need to:

  • Register their rental property with the city
  • Obtain a general business license
  • Ensure their property meets all building and safety codes
  • Collect and remit any applicable taxes

It's important for prospective short-term rental operators in Fort Smith to thoroughly research all local regulations that may apply to their specific property and situation. When in doubt, contacting the Fort Smith Planning & Zoning Department directly is the best way to get accurate and up-to-date information on any STR requirements in the city.

Required Documents for Fort Smith Short Term Rentals

To operate a short-term rental in Fort Smith, Arkansas, you'll need to ensure you have the necessary documents in order. While the city does not appear to have STR-specific licensing requirements, there are still some general documents you'll likely need to obtain.

First and foremost, you'll need to register your rental property with the city of Fort Smith. This is a standard requirement for operating a business in the city.

You can do this by contacting the Fort Smith Planning & Zoning Department and providing them with your property details.

In addition to registering your property, you'll also need to obtain a general business license from the city. This is a requirement for all businesses operating in Fort Smith, including short-term rentals. You can apply for a business license through the Fort Smith City Clerk's office.

It's also important to make sure your property is up to code and has all the necessary safety equipment. This includes things like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. You may need to provide documentation showing that your property meets these safety requirements.

Finally, you'll need to have a valid government-issued ID and proof of ownership or the right to rent out the property. This could include a deed, mortgage statement, or rental agreement.

While the specific documents required for short-term rentals in Fort Smith may vary depending on your individual circumstances, these are the general documents you'll likely need to have in order. By ensuring you have these documents ready, you'll be well on your way to starting your short-term rental business in Fort Smith.

Fort Smith Short Term Rental Taxes

As a short-term rental operator in Fort Smith, Arkansas, it's crucial to understand your tax obligations to remain compliant with state and local laws. According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, short-term rentals are subject to state and local sales taxes, as well as any applicable lodging taxes.

At the state level, Arkansas imposes a 6.5% sales tax on short-term rentals, which is collected by platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo on behalf of the host. In addition to the state sales tax, Fort Smith levies a 1% local sales tax, bringing the total sales tax rate for short-term rentals to 7.5%.

It's important to note that Fort Smith also has a 3% lodging tax that applies to hotels, motels, and short-term rentals. This tax is in addition to the state and local sales taxes, meaning that the total tax rate for short-term rentals in Fort Smith is 10.5%.

As a host, you are responsible for collecting and remitting these taxes to the appropriate authorities. However, many short-term rental platforms, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, have agreements with the state of Arkansas to collect and remit the state sales tax on your behalf. It's essential to check with your platform to understand their tax collection policies and to ensure that you are in compliance with all applicable taxes.

To streamline the tax collection process, it's recommended that you include the total tax rate in your nightly pricing. This way, guests are aware of the total cost upfront, and you can easily collect and remit the taxes to the proper authorities.

Fort Smith wide Short Term Rental Rules

According to the Fort Smith municipal code, short-term rentals are allowed in residential zoning districts as a "temporary use." However, the code does not provide extensive details on specific citywide regulations for STRs.

Key rules that are likely to apply to short-term rentals in Fort Smith include:

  • Occupancy Limits: STRs may be subject to occupancy restrictions based on the size of the property and number of bedrooms. Hosts should consult with the Planning & Zoning Department for guidance.
  • Parking Requirements: Adequate off-street parking must be provided for STR guests. The number of required spaces will depend on the property's characteristics.
  • Noise Restrictions: STR hosts and guests must comply with the city's noise ordinance, which prohibits unreasonable noise that disturbs the peace and quiet of neighborhoods.
  • Safety Standards: Rental properties must meet applicable building, health, and safety codes. This includes having working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.
  • Trash & Recycling: Hosts are responsible for ensuring proper trash disposal and recycling practices are followed at their STR property.

While these general rules provide a framework for operating STRs in Fort Smith, hosts should contact the Planning & Zoning Department directly for the most accurate and up-to-date information on any additional or specific requirements.

By familiarizing themselves with and adhering to the citywide short-term rental rules, hosts can operate their STR business responsibly and avoid potential issues with the city or neighbors.

Does Fort Smith strictly enforce STR rules?” Is Fort Smith Airbnb friendly?

Based on discussions from Airbnb hosts on forums like Bigger Pockets and Reddit, Fort Smith appears to be relatively friendly towards short-term rentals compared to many other cities. Several hosts mentioned operating STRs in Fort Smith without facing major regulatory hurdles or enforcement issues.

One host on Bigger Pockets shared, "I've been running an Airbnb in Fort Smith for over a year now and haven't had any problems with the city. As long as you're a responsible host and follow the basic rules, you should be fine."

Another host on Reddit commented, "Fort Smith is pretty laid back when it comes to short-term rentals. I know quite a few people hosting on Airbnb here without any pushback from the city. Just make sure you're registered and paying your taxes."

While these anecdotes suggest a hands-off approach from the city, it's important to note that individual experiences may vary. Fort Smith's lack of detailed STR regulations could change in the future if issues arise or resident complaints increase.

Overall, Fort Smith seems to be an Airbnb-friendly market based on the current regulatory environment and host experiences shared online. Prospective hosts should still do their due diligence, follow all applicable rules, and be proactive in communicating with the city to ensure smooth operations.

How to Start a Short Term Rental Business in Fort Smith

Starting a short-term rental (STR) business in Fort Smith, Arkansas is a straightforward process. Follow these steps to get your Airbnb or Vrbo up and running:

  • Research Zoning Regulations: Before investing in a rental property, check Fort Smith's zoning rules to confirm that short-term rentals are permitted in your desired location. Contact the Fort Smith Planning & Zoning Department at (479) 784-2216 for guidance.
  • Choose a Suitable Property: Select a property that meets your budget, target guest preferences, and any applicable zoning restrictions. Consider factors like location, amenities, and rental potential.
  • Register Your Property: Once you have a property, register it with the City of Fort Smith. This step ensures your STR operates legally and complies with any local regulations.
  • Obtain Necessary Licenses: Apply for a general business license through the city. While Fort Smith doesn't appear to require a specific short-term rental permit, a business license is typically needed to operate legally.
  • Prepare Your Property: Make any necessary repairs or upgrades to ensure your rental is safe, clean, and attractive to guests. Furnish the space and provide essential amenities to create a comfortable stay.
  • Create Your Listing: Sign up for popular STR platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo and create a compelling listing. Craft an attention-grabbing title, write a detailed description, and showcase high-quality photos of your property.
  • Set Your Pricing: Research comparable rentals in Fort Smith to determine competitive nightly rates. Consider factors like seasonality, events, and demand when setting prices.
  • Establish House Rules: Clearly communicate your expectations to guests, including check-in/out times, occupancy limits, noise restrictions, and pet policies. Having well-defined house rules helps prevent misunderstandings and maintains a positive rental experience.
  • Manage Bookings and Communication: Respond promptly to guest inquiries and reservation requests. Maintain a friendly, professional tone in all interactions to build positive reviews and repeat business.
  • Comply with Tax Obligations: Short-term rental operators in Arkansas must collect and remit state Sales & Use taxes. Familiarize yourself with any additional local tax requirements in Fort Smith and set up processes to manage tax compliance.

By following these steps and staying informed about local regulations, you can successfully launch and operate a short-term rental business in Fort Smith, Arkansas. As always, consult with local authorities and legal professionals for the most accurate and up-to-date guidance.

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

If you're considering starting a short-term rental business in Fort Smith, Arkansas, it's crucial to understand the local regulations and zoning requirements. The best way to get accurate and up-to-date information is to contact the Fort Smith Planning & Zoning Department directly.

The Planning & Zoning Department is responsible for overseeing land use, development, and zoning within the city. They can provide guidance on whether short-term rentals are allowed in your specific location and any rules or restrictions you need to follow.

To reach the Fort Smith Planning & Zoning Department, you can:

  • Call them at (479) 784-2216 during business hours
  • Visit their office at 623 Garrison Ave, Fort Smith, AR 72901

When contacting the department, be prepared to provide details about your property, such as the address and zoning district. It's also helpful to have a list of questions ready, so you can get all the information you need in one conversation.

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

The lack of online chatter from local hosts could suggest that Fort Smith's rules for vacation rentals are relatively straightforward and not overly burdensome compared to other cities. Hosts may not feel compelled to vent frustrations or seek regulatory clarification from online communities.

However, the absence of information does not necessarily mean Fort Smith STR operators are satisfied with the regulatory environment. It's possible that relevant discussions are happening in private Facebook groups or other invite-only forums I cannot access.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.