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Spokane Short Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Spokane, Washington

Starting a Short Term Rental Business in Spokane

The City of Spokane allows short-term rentals (STRs) like Airbnb and VRBO in all zones that allow residential uses, subject to certain regulations and permitting requirements12. STRs are defined as rentals of a residential dwelling unit, or portion thereof, for periods of less than 30 consecutive nights410.

This ordinance was originally adopted in 2015 to balance the economic opportunity for residents to operate STRs with the need to protect neighborhood character and housing supply29. However, the 2015 rules were not clearly written and lacked an effective enforcement mechanism, leading to widespread non-compliance39.

In July 2023, the Spokane City Council passed amendments to clarify and strengthen the STR regulations12. The updated rules went into effect on September 1, 2023 and the city will begin proactive monitoring and enforcement in partnership with software provider Granicus starting in January 2024135.

Some key provisions of Spokane's updated STR ordinance include124:

  • STRs allowed in all residential zones, with permit
  • Only 1 STR per single-family home, ADU, or condo unit
  • Multi-family buildings limited to 20% STRs in residential zones, 30% in other zones
  • Occupancy limits of 2 per bedroom plus 2 (e.g. 6 max in 2BR)
  • Permit number required in all ads/listings
  • On-site parking, building safety, and nuisance standards apply
  • Permits can be revoked for repeated violations

The amendments aim to provide a clearer regulatory framework while still allowing STRs to operate with appropriate oversight. Proponents argue the changes will create a more level playing field between permitted and unpermitted rentals39.

Short Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Spokane

As of September 1, 2023, all STR operators in Spokane must obtain a short-term rental permit for each dwelling unit being rented on a short-term basis134. Permit applications can be submitted online through the City's Accela Citizen Access portal34.

The permit application fees are134:

  • $200 for STRs in residential zones, $100 annual renewal
  • $300 for STRs in other zones, $150 annual renewal

These fees are in addition to the general business registration fees. STR operators must also obtain a City of Spokane business license endorsement through the Washington State Department of Revenue7815. The business license fee is based on number of employees and business income815.

Previously, the city had only issued 44 active STR permits as of June 2023, despite identifying 648 STR units being advertised on various platforms23. The discrepancy highlighted the need for clearer rules and stronger enforcement to level the playing field and protect compliant operators39.

Required Documents for Spokane Short Term Rentals

To apply for a STR permit, operators need to provide4:

  • Site and floor plans of the STR
  • Proof of property ownership or permission from the owner
  • Proof of liability insurance
  • 24/7 contact information for the owner or operator
  • Signed "Life Safety" compliance form certifying smoke/CO detectors and fire extinguishers
  • Neighbor notification letter for STRs in residential zones

The permit number must be included in all advertisements and listings for the STR4. Maximum occupancy limits apply based on the number of bedrooms4.

Spokane Short Term Rental Taxes

STR operators in Spokane must collect and remit applicable state and local sales taxes, lodging taxes, and convention center taxes from guests561216. As of 2023, the combined tax rate is 13.1% in Spokane (6.5% state sales tax + 3.6% local sales tax + 2% lodging tax + 1% convention center tax)61216.

Airbnb and Vrbo automatically collect these taxes on behalf of hosts in Washington state567. However, even if taxes are collected by the rental platform, hosts are still required to register with the Washington Department of Revenue and file lodging tax returns reporting their rental income51216.

Hosts are responsible for collecting and remitting taxes themselves if not done by the rental platform. Failure to comply with tax collection and reporting requirements can result in penalties and interest1216.

In 2024, state lawmakers are also considering allowing cities and counties to impose an additional local excise tax of up to 10% on STRs to fund affordable housing initiatives14. If approved, this could further increase the tax obligations for Spokane STR operators.

Spokane-wide Short Term Rental Rules

Under Spokane's updated STR ordinance effective September 2023, the following rules apply citywide124:

  • Only 1 STR allowed per single-family home, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), or individually-owned condo/apartment unit
  • In multi-family apartment/condo buildings, STRs limited to 20% of units in residential zones and 30% in other zones
  • Maximum occupancy limits of 2 people per bedroom plus 2 additional (e.g. 6 people in 2BR)
  • Permit number must be included in all STR advertisements and listings
  • Adequate on-site parking must be provided per existing standards
  • STRs must meet building safety standards and pass initial fire inspection, with self-certification allowed for renewals
  • Permit can be revoked for repeated (3+ in 12 months) violations of noise, parking, trash or other nuisance standards

STRs with permits issued prior to September 2023 are grandfathered under the old rules if they remain otherwise compliant12. The updated regulations do not apply to owner-occupied homeshares renting individual rooms only4.

Some additional restrictions may apply in certain zones or neighborhoods. For example, STRs are prohibited in accessory structures like RVs, tents, garages and boats citywide13. Homeowners associations and condo boards can also impose their own rules on STRs that may be more restrictive than the city code713.

Does Spokane strictly enforce STR rules?

Historically, Spokane has not proactively enforced its STR regulations, with the vast majority of STRs operating without required permits23817. A 2022 study found 648 STRs advertised in Spokane, compared to only 44 active city permits at the time239.

However, with the passage of updated rules in 2023, the City will begin more active monitoring and enforcement in partnership with software provider Granicus starting in January 2024135. Unpermitted STRs identified by Granicus will receive a warning letter with a 30-day grace period to apply for a permit before escalating penalties125.

Compared to peer cities, Spokane's approach is middle-of-the-road - not an outright ban on STRs but with reasonable licensing, tax collection, and operational requirements91014. While some unpermitted STRs are likely to continue to operate under the radar, the City's stance seems to be to allow STRs with appropriate oversight rather than driving them completely underground2917.

City Council members have expressed a desire to balance the economic benefits of STRs with the need to protect housing affordability and neighborhood livability919. Increased enforcement aims to create a more level playing field for compliant operators39.

Overall, Spokane appears to be taking an "Airbnb-friendly" approach compared to cities with very restrictive rules or all-out bans. But STR operators should expect greater scrutiny and compliance obligations going forward as the city ramps up its regulatory efforts. Prospective hosts are advised to carefully review all requirements and be prepared for potential changes to the still-evolving local STR landscape.

How to Start a Short Term Rental Business in Spokane

Here are the key steps to legally operate a short-term rental in Spokane:

  • Check your property's zoning to confirm STRs are allowed
  • Review any applicable HOA/condo rules and lease agreements
  • Obtain a Washington State business license and City of Spokane endorsement
  • Apply for a City of Spokane STR permit and pay application fee
  • Provide required documentation including proof of ownership/permission, site plans, insurance, and 24/7 contact info
  • For STRs in residential zones, mail notification letter to neighbors
  • Schedule and pass initial fire/safety inspection
  • Collect and remit all applicable taxes (unless done by rental platform)
  • Include STR permit number in all advertisements and listings
  • Follow all City operational requirements regarding parking, occupancy, noise, etc.
  • Renew STR permit annually and schedule any required re-inspections

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

For questions about Spokane's short-term rental requirements and zoning, contact:

Spokane Planning & Development Services

Washington Dept of Revenue (business licensing)

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

There are limited discussions from Spokane STR hosts on Reddit and Bigger Pockets forums. A few relevant threads:

  • Reddit post asking if Spokane allows Airbnb in residential areas (2018): https://www.reddit.com/r/Spokane/comments/8bf0yx/airbnb_and_zoning/
  • Commenters note STRs are allowed with a permit but enforcement has been lax
  • Some concerns about investors buying up housing for STRs
  • General sentiment that reasonable regulations are appropriate to balance property rights and community impacts
  • Bigger Pockets thread on investing in Spokane Airbnbs (2018): https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/530/topics/607500-airbnb-and-spokane-wa
  • Host mentions getting city business license but no major regulatory hurdles at the time
  • Advises checking with HOA/condo rules which may be more restrictive than city
  • Notes good ROI potential but cautions market may become more saturated
  • Reddit discussion on Spokane considering updates to STR rules (2022): https://www.reddit.com/r/Spokane/comments/uiswlj/spokane_may_consider_tweaking_its_airbnb_policy/
  • Some frustration with lack of clarity and enforcement of existing rules
  • Concerns about housing being converted to STRs during affordability crisis
  • Calls for better data to understand true impacts
  • Recognition that STRs provide income opportunity and meet visitor demand
  • Desire for balanced approach to allow STRs with "common sense" regulations

Overall, it seems operating a permitted STR in Spokane is very feasible, though the City's enforcement posture may be shifting with the new 2023 ordinance and monitoring program. Prospective hosts should carefully review all requirements and be prepared for increased scrutiny going forward. While there are some community concerns about housing impacts, most seem to feel a regulated approach is better than an outright ban. Hosts emphasize the importance of being a good neighbor and responsible operator.

In summary, Spokane's evolving STR regulations reflect an attempt to balance the benefits of this emerging lodging market with the need to mitigate potential negative externalities. The city's latest ordinance updates provide clearer rules and stronger enforcement tools, but still allow compliant STRs to operate in residential areas.

Hosts should expect greater oversight and compliance obligations in the coming years. But with proper planning and adherence to local requirements, STRs can remain a viable business opportunity in Spokane. Ongoing monitoring and potential future policy changes may be needed as the market matures to ensure STRs remain compatible with the city's housing and community development goals.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.