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

Napa, California

What are Short-Term Rental (Airbnb, VRBO) Regulations in Napa, California?

The City of Napa has specific regulations for operating short-term vacation rentals, such as Airbnb and Vrbo. These rules are outlined in the Napa Municipal Code Section 17.52.515.

The key points are:

  • Only a limited number of short-term rental permits are issued by the city - 41 for "non-hosted" whole home rentals and 60 for "hosted" rentals where the owner lives on-site.
  • All these permits have been issued, with waitlists for new applications.
  • Non-owner-occupied vacation rentals are prohibited in residential zones.
  • The owner must live on the property during any rental period of 30 days or less.
  • Short-term rentals require a permit, business license, safety inspections, and collection of transient occupancy taxes.
  • Enforcement actions have been against illegal rentals operating without permits, including fines and legal cases.

So, in summary, Napa only allows a limited number of permitted short-term rentals where the owner is present. Investment properties converted to full-time vacation rentals are not permitted in residential areas.

Starting a Short-Term Rental Business in Napa, California

If you want to legally launch a short-term rental business in Napa as a resident host, here are the key steps:

  1. Get on the waitlist to apply for either a "Hosted Accommodation" or "Non-Hosted Accommodation" permit when new ones become available.
  2. Ensure you will be living on-site full-time at the rental property, as required by zoning rules.
  3. Once called from the waitlist, submit a permit application, including proof of residency, floor plans, and parking details, and pay the permit fee.
  4. Have the property inspected and obtain all the city's required permits, licenses, and approvals.
  5. Register with the city to pay 12% Transient Occupancy Tax on rental income.
  6. Obtain proper liability insurance and follow all rules regarding occupancy, noise, parking, trash disposal, etc.
  7. Create your listing on Airbnb/Vrbo, clearly stating you are an owner-occupied rental.
  8. Renew the permit annually and remain compliant with all regulations.

While Napa does allow some resident hosts to operate permitted short-term rentals, the limited number of permits available and owner-occupancy requirement make it challenging to operate a full-time vacation rental business in the city. Following all the rules is crucial to avoid penalties and legal issues.

Short-Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Napa

Napa has very specific licensing and permitting requirements for operating a short-term rental in the city. Only a limited number of short-term rental permits are issued each year - 41 for "non-hosted" whole home rentals and 60 for "hosted" rentals where the owner lives on-site.

To obtain a short-term rental permit, hosts must go through an application process that includes:

  1. Submitting proof of property ownership and that it is the host's primary residence
  2. Providing a site plan, floor plan, and parking details for the rental unit
  3. Having the property inspected to ensure it meets safety and building code standards
  4. Paying an application fee based on the type of permit (hosted vs non-hosted)

The permit application also requires acknowledgment that the host will follow operational rules like:

  1. Collecting and remitting the 12% Transient Occupancy Tax on rental income
  2. Adhering to occupancy limits based on the number of bedrooms
  3. Ensuring guests don't create noise, parking, or trash disturbances
  4. Providing 24/7 contact information for responding to complaints

Short-term rental permits need to be renewed annually by submitting updated documentation and paying a renewal fee.

Importantly, Napa only allows short-term rentals where the owner lives on-site as their primary residence. Non-owner-occupied vacation rentals are prohibited based on the city's zoning ordinances.

The application process is competitive, and a limited number of permits are issued each year. Prospective hosts get placed on a waitlist until permits become available through attrition.

Required Documents for Napa Short-Term Rentals

Napa has stringent documentation requirements when applying for a short-term rental permit. Prospective hosts must provide the following:

  1. Proof of Property Ownership - Grant deed, property tax records, or other documentation showing ownership
  2. Proof of Primary Residency - Driver's license, voter registration, utility bills matching the rental property address
  3. Detailed Floor Plans - Showing the layout of the rental unit, dimensions, entry/exit points
  4. Site Plan - Detailing the rental's parking areas, proximity to neighboring properties
  5. 24/7 Local Contact Information - Name and contact details for a responsible party, such as a co-host or property manager, available to respond to complaints
  6. Acknowledgment of Operational Requirements - Occupancy limits, noise rules, parking restrictions, trash disposal protocols
  7. Proof of Proper Insurance Coverage - Liability insurance appropriate for operating a short-term rental business

In addition to the initial application documents, hosts must maintain and provide the following on an ongoing basis:

  1. Quarterly Reports
  2. Documenting the number of rental nights and paying the 12% Transient Occupancy Tax
  3. Guest Registration Records
  4. Names, home addresses, vehicle information, and dates of stay for all guests

When the short-term rental permit comes up for annual renewal, the city may request updated documentation like renewed insurance certificates.

Failure to submit any of the required documents can result in denial or revocation of the short-term rental permit. Hosts must meticulously compile and maintain all documentation to legally operate in Napa.

Napa Short-Term Rental Taxes

Short-term rental hosts in Napa are required to collect and remit two different tax payments to the city:

  1. Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)
  2. Business License Tax

The Transient Occupancy Tax rate in Napa is 12% of the rental revenue collected from guests. Hosts must register with the city's TOT program and submit the 12% tax payment on a quarterly basis, along with documentation of rental income and guest stays.

Failure to pay the TOT can result in penalties, interest charges, revocation of the short-term rental permit, and potential legal action. The city actively enforces and audits TOT compliance.

In addition to the TOT, short-term rental hosts must also pay an annual Business License Tax to operate their rental business within Napa city limits. The amount is calculated based on gross rental receipts:

  1. For rentals grossing $0 - $12,000 annually, the tax is $30
  2. For rentals grossing over $12,000 annually, the tax rate is 0.1% of gross receipts

So, a short-term rental generating $50,000 in revenue would pay a $50 business license tax for that year.

Hosts need to obtain a business license and report their rental income annually to calculate and pay the appropriate tax amount.

Napa imposes multiple tax obligations on short-term rental operators between the 12% TOT and the business license tax requirements. Ensuring full compliance with both taxes is critical to legally running a vacation rental business in the city.

Napa Wide Short-Term Rental Rules

The City of Napa has enacted several regulations that apply to all permitted short-term rentals operating within city limits. These rules are aimed at minimizing impacts on residential neighborhoods. Key requirements include:

  1. Permitting: All short-term rentals must obtain an annual permit from the city before operating. Only a limited number of permits are issued each year.
  2. Owner Occupancy: Only properties that are the owner's primary residence can be used as short-term rentals. Non-owner-occupied vacation rentals are prohibited.
  3. Occupancy Limits: Based on the size and number of bedrooms, there are caps on the maximum number of overnight guests allowed.
  4. Parking: Sufficient off-street parking must be provided for all guest vehicles on the rental property itself.
  5. Noise: Strict noise rules prohibit excessive sound that disturbs neighbors between 10pm-7am.
  6. Trash: Rental guests must utilize proper trash/recycling bins and cannot leave garbage outside except on designated pickup days.
  7. Posting Rules: Rental listings must display the city permit number, occupancy limits, parking rules, and 24/7 contact information.
  8. Liability Insurance: Hosts must maintain active liability insurance that is appropriate for operating a short-term rental business.

In addition, short-term rental hosts and guests must follow all other applicable local laws around noise, nuisances, safety, etc. Violations can result in citations, fines, and potential permit revocation or legal action.

The city takes enforcement very seriously, relying on a 24/7 hotline for complaints as well as conducting monitoring and audits of short-term rental listings and activity. Hosts must ensure full understanding and compliance with all the rules to operate legally in Napa.

Does Napa Strictly Enforce STR Rules?

Based on discussions on forums like Bigger Pockets and Reddit, it appears Napa takes an extremely strict stance in enforcing its short-term rental regulations compared to most other cities.

Many hosts complain that Napa's rules requiring owner-occupancy and limiting the number of permitted rentals make it virtually impossible to operate as an investor. One Bigger Pockets user stated, "Napa is a complete no-go zone for any kind of non-owner occupied STR - they have it locked down tight."

There are frequent reports of the city aggressively pursuing illegal rentals through monitoring listings, responding to complaints, levying heavy fines, and even taking legal action. A Reddit post mentioned, "My friend got slapped with a $5,000 fine in Napa for advertising his rental without a permit."

While some hosts try to operate under the radar, the consensus is this is an extremely risky approach given Napa's enforcement efforts. As one person commented, "Maybe you can slip through for a few months, but Napa will eventually catch you, and the penalties are crazy."

Overall, the opinion from local host communities is that Napa is one of the least Airbnb-friendly cities in the region if not the entire state. The regulations are extremely restrictive, the limited number of permits is a huge barrier, and the city shows zero tolerance for violations of any kind.

Unless you are a resident looking to occasionally rent out a portion of your home, most acknowledge that Napa leaves essentially no room for investors or full-time short-term rental businesses to operate legally. The city prioritizes preventing vacation rentals over facilitating them.

How to Start a Short-Term Rental Business in Napa

If you want to legally start a short-term rental business in Napa, you must follow these steps:

  • Ensure you live in the property as your primary residence, as only owner-occupied short-term rentals are permitted per city zoning rules.
  • Get on the waitlist to apply for either a "Hosted Accommodation" or "Non-Hosted Accommodation" permit when new ones become available.
  • Once called from the waitlist, submit a permit application including:

- Proof of property ownership and residency
- Floor plans and site plans of the rental unit
- Payment of the permit application fee

  • Have the property inspected to ensure compliance with all safety and building codes.
  • Obtain all required permits, licenses, and approvals from the city.
  • Register with the city's Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) program to collect and remit the 12% TOT on rental income.
  • Obtain a Napa business license and pay the associated tax based on rental revenue projections.
  • Secure proper liability insurance coverage for operating a short-term rental business.
  • Familiarize yourself with all operational rules around occupancy limits, noise, parking, trash disposal, posting requirements, etc.
  • Create your listing on Airbnb, Vrbo, or other platforms, clearly stating that you are a resident host who will be present.
  • Maintain records of all guest stays to submit with quarterly TOT tax filings.
  • Renew all permits, licenses, and approvals annually.

With Napa's strict cap on the number of permitted short-term rentals, getting approved can be extremely difficult. Following all requirements precisely is crucial, as the city enforces violations aggressively. Make sure you understand every step before proceeding.

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

If you have any questions or need to report violations related to short-term rental regulations and zoning in Napa, you can contact:

City of Napa
Planning Division
1600 First St
Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (707) 257-9530

The Planning Division oversees the permitting, regulation, and enforcement of short-term rentals in Napa. You can call or visit their offices to:

  • Inquire about short-term rental rules and getting on the permit waitlist
  • Submit applications or renewal documentation for short-term rental permits
  • Get clarification on regulations like occupancy limits, parking, noise etc.
  • File a complaint about an illegal or non-compliant short-term rental

For any issues specifically related to zoning rules, permitted uses in certain areas, or requesting an interpretation of the zoning code, you can also contact the Planning Division.

You can report any general violations or nuisance issues related to short-term rentals through the city's CODE ENFORCEMENT hotline:

Code Enforcement Hotline
Phone: (707) 258-7816

This hotline allows you to file complaints about noise, parking, trash or other public nuisance violations from short-term rental properties.

For any permitting, zoning, or enforcement questions and issues regarding short-term rentals in Napa, the Planning Division and Code Enforcement Hotline are the primary points of contact.

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

The extremely restrictive short-term rental regulations in Napa are a major point of frustration among hosts on forums like Reddit and Bigger Pockets:

Reddit user: "Napa has to be one of the worst cities in California for Airbnb. Their rules make it virtually impossible for any investor rental - you must be a full-time resident owner."

Bigger Pockets post: "Just got my 4th violation notice from the City of Napa for operating without a permit. Over $10,000 in fines now. Their enforcement is absolutely draconian."

Another Redditor: "I'm on the waitlist for a permit in Napa, but they only issue about 40 permits per year. At this rate, I'll be dead before getting approved to rent out my home legally."

Some express anger at the lack of options:

"Napa's policies are so backwards. They'd rather leave housing vacant than allow responsible hosts to operate short-term rentals."

However, a few see the rationale behind the strict rules:

"I get why Napa is so restrictive - they're trying to prevent investors from absorbing the housing stock into Airbnb motels."

Overall, the vast majority of hosts view Napa as having some of the most prohibitive and unfriendly short-term rental policies in the region. Most feel the rules effectively ban any form of investment or non-owner occupied rentals, making it extremely difficult for residents to operate legally. There is widespread frustration in local host communities over Napa's aggressive enforcement as well.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.