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Irvine Short Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Irvine, California

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

Short term rental regulations in Irvine, California are outlined in the city's municipal code and zoning ordinances. These rules govern various aspects of short term rentals, including permitting requirements, tax obligations, and eligible zones for operators. Understanding and complying with these regulations is crucial for anyone considering starting a short term rental business in Irvine.

Starting a Short Term Rental Business in Irvine

Unfortunately for aspiring hosts, Irvine has taken a hard stance against short-term rentals in residential areas. In 2018, the city passed an ordinance banning all rentals of less than 30 days in residential zones. This effectively prohibits the operation of Airbnb, Vrbo, and similar platforms in most of Irvine's neighborhoods.

The city's justification for this ban centers around preserving the character and quality of life in residential communities. Officials have expressed concerns that an influx of short-term rentals could lead to increased noise, parking issues, and a sense of transience in neighborhoods.

Irvine's short-term rental ban applies to all types of residential properties, including single-family homes, condos, and apartments. The only exception is for properties located in hotel-motel zones, where short-term rentals are still permitted.

In February 2021, Irvine further tightened its restrictions by prohibiting short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo from processing transactions for properties within the city. This means that even if a host attempts to list their property, the rental platform will not allow the booking to go through.

Short Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Irvine

Since short-term rentals are banned in residential areas, there is no licensing process available for hosts. Attempting to operate a short-term rental without the proper zoning can result in warnings, citations, and substantial fines from the city.

Some cities in California, such as Palm Springs and Santa Monica, do offer a permitting process for short-term rentals in certain areas. However, Irvine has taken a more restrictive approach by implementing a blanket ban on residential short-term rentals.

If you own a property in one of Irvine's hotel-motel zones, you may be able to obtain a permit to operate a short-term rental. However, these zones are limited and primarily intended for traditional lodging establishments.

Required Documents for Irvine Short Term Rentals

Given the current ban on residential short-term rentals, there are no specific documents required to operate an Airbnb or Vrbo in Irvine. Attempting to submit licensing paperwork or a permit application for a short-term rental in a prohibited zone will likely be rejected by the city.

In cities where short-term rentals are allowed, hosts are often required to submit documents such as a business license, transient occupancy tax registration, and proof of liability insurance. However, these requirements are not applicable in Irvine due to the city's stance against residential short-term rentals.

Irvine Short Term Rental Taxes

While Irvine does have an 8% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) that applies to hotel stays and other short-term lodging, this tax is not relevant for most short-term rentals. Since the vast majority of residential properties are prohibited from operating as short-term rentals, there is no mechanism for collecting TOT from these properties.

In cities where short-term rentals are permitted, hosts are typically required to register for and remit TOT on a regular basis. These taxes are used to fund local services and infrastructure, similar to the way hotel taxes are collected and allocated.

However, in Irvine, the ban on residential short-term rentals means that the city is not currently collecting TOT revenue from Airbnb and Vrbo hosts. The only properties subject to TOT are those located in designated hotel-motel zones.

Irvine-wide Short Term Rental Rules

Irvine's municipal code is very clear in its prohibition of short-term rentals in residential areas. The code states that "transient occupancy is not allowed anywhere other than a hotel-motel zone; transient occupancy is defined as rental of a space or unit of 30 days or less."

This rule applies citywide, meaning that there are no residential neighborhoods or zones where short-term rentals are permitted. The ban covers all types of residential properties, including single-family homes, condos, apartments, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

The only exception to this rule is for properties located in specifically zoned hotel-motel districts. These areas are intended for traditional lodging establishments and may allow short-term rentals with the proper permitting.

Irvine's short-term rental ban is one of the most restrictive in California, with no exceptions or carve-outs for owner-occupied properties or part-time rentals. Cities like Palm Springs and Santa Monica have implemented more nuanced regulations that allow for some short-term rental activity with certain restrictions.

Does Irvine strictly enforce STR rules?

Yes, Irvine is known for its strict enforcement of short-term rental regulations compared to other cities in California. The city has taken an aggressive stance against violators, issuing dozens of warning letters and citations to property owners caught operating illegal short-term rentals.

Irvine's enforcement efforts include actively monitoring short-term rental platforms for listings within the city and investigating complaints from neighbors. The city has a dedicated code enforcement team that responds to reports of illegal short-term rental activity.

In addition to issuing warnings and citations, Irvine has also pursued legal action against some short-term rental operators. In 2019, the city filed a lawsuit against a property owner who had accumulated over $100,000 in fines for repeatedly violating the short-term rental ban.

As of 2021, Irvine has further strengthened its enforcement capabilities by requiring platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo to report the names and addresses of anyone attempting to list a short-term rental in the city. This reporting requirement makes it even more difficult for hosts to operate under the radar.

Compared to other cities in Orange County and throughout California, Irvine is considered one of the least Airbnb-friendly destinations. While some cities have taken a more permissive approach to short-term rentals, Irvine has prioritized preserving the residential character of its neighborhoods.

Hosts who have attempted to operate short-term rentals in Irvine despite the ban have reported difficulty avoiding detection and enforcement. Many have received warnings and fines, leading to a general consensus that operating an Airbnb or Vrbo in Irvine is not worth the risk.

How to Start a Short Term Rental Business in Irvine

Unfortunately, due to Irvine's ban on residential short-term rentals, it is not possible to legally operate an Airbnb or Vrbo in most of the city's neighborhoods. Attempting to start a short-term rental business in a prohibited zone can result in serious consequences, including:

  • Receiving a warning letter from the city's code enforcement team
  • Being issued citations and fines for violating the short-term rental ban
  • Having your listing information reported to the city by rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo
  • Facing potential legal action from the city for repeated violations

If you own a property in one of Irvine's designated hotel-motel zones, you may be able to legally operate a short-term rental. However, these zones are limited and primarily intended for traditional lodging establishments.To start a short-term rental business in a permitted zone, you would need to:

  • Ensure that your property is located in a hotel-motel zone that allows short-term rentals
  • Obtain any necessary permits or licenses from the city
  • Register for and remit Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) to the city
  • Comply with any additional regulations or requirements for short-term rentals in your specific zone

However, for the vast majority of residential properties in Irvine, starting a short-term rental business is not a viable option due to the city's ban.

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

If you have questions or concerns about short-term rental regulations and zoning in Irvine, there are several city departments you can contact for information and assistance.

For general questions about the city's short-term rental ban and enforcement efforts, you can reach out to Irvine's Code Enforcement division. The municipal code states: "If you notice short-term rental activity in your neighborhood, please call the City's Code Enforcement staff."

You can contact Code Enforcement by phone at 949-724-6326 or by email at codeenforcement@cityofirvine.org.

If you need information about zoning requirements and permitted uses in specific areas of the city, you can contact Irvine's Community Development Department. This department handles land use, zoning, and planning issues for the city.

You can reach Community Development by phone at 949-724-6308 or by email at planningcounter@cityofirvine.org.For questions about Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and other business tax requirements, you can contact Irvine's Business License Division. This division handles business licensing and tax collection for the city.

You can reach the Business License Division by phone at 949-724-6140 or by email at businesslicense@cityofirvine.org.

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

On popular real estate and short-term rental forums like Reddit and Bigger Pockets, Irvine hosts have expressed significant frustration and disappointment with the city's strict ban on residential short-term rentals.

Many hosts feel that the city has unfairly targeted them and their businesses, without considering the potential benefits of short-term rentals for the local economy and tourism industry. Some have argued that the ban is an overreach of the city's authority and infringes on their property rights.Jorge Zamora, an Irvine host who has been fighting a citation from the city, shared his perspective on the BiggerPockets forum: "I feel like I've been vilified by the city. I'm not a lawbreaker, or someone who is going to bend the rules. I'm a by-the-book guy."Zamora also expressed his belief that the city's short-term rental ban is misguided and unfair to individual property owners: "

Irvine is trying to shoehorn individually-owned single-family properties into a hotel taxation scheme."Other hosts on Reddit and Bigger Pockets have shared similar stories of receiving warnings and fines from the city for operating short-term rentals. Many have advised fellow hosts to avoid Irvine altogether, citing the high risk of enforcement and steep penalties.

The general consensus among Irvine hosts on these forums is that the city is one of the least Airbnb-friendly destinations in Orange County and California as a whole. While some hosts have attempted to operate under the radar, most seem to agree that the risks of running a short-term rental in Irvine outweigh any potential rewards.

As one host put it on the Airbnb subreddit: "Irvine is a no-go for short-term rentals. The city has made it very clear that they don't want us here, and they're willing to go to great lengths to shut us down. It's just not worth the hassle and expense of trying to operate in this environment."

Despite the challenges and frustrations expressed by Irvine hosts, the city's short-term rental ban remains in effect, with no indications of a policy change on the horizon. For now, aspiring hosts in Irvine will need to look to other cities and markets that are more welcoming to short-term rentals.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.