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Winston-Salem Short Term Rental Regulation: A Guide For Airbnb Hosts

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

What are short term rental (Airbnb, VRBO) regulations in Winston-Salem North Carolina?

Winston-Salem, North Carolina is becoming an increasingly popular destination for travelers and a lucrative market for short-term rental (STR) hosts on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. The city's vibrant culture, historic attractions, and thriving food and arts scenes have contributed to a surge in demand for vacation rentals in recent years.

However, as the STR industry has grown, many cities across the country have grappled with how to effectively regulate and tax these properties. Some have implemented strict permit requirements, zoning restrictions, and enforcement mechanisms, while others have taken a more hands-off approach.

So where does Winston-Salem fall on this spectrum of STR regulations? The good news for current and prospective hosts is that the city currently has some of the most Airbnb-friendly rules in the state and country.

Unlike many other major tourist destinations, Winston-Salem does not have any specific ordinances or zoning codes that explicitly restrict or prohibit short-term rentals. This means that both owner-occupied and non-owner occupied STRs are allowed in all neighborhoods across the city, without the need for any special permits or licenses.

The lack of strict regulations has made Winston-Salem an attractive and accessible market for Airbnb operators. Hosts are not burdened by complex registration processes, caps on rental days, or requirements to be on-site during guest stays that are common in other cities.

However, this does not mean that short-term rentals in Winston-Salem are completely unregulated. There are still some general rules and requirements that hosts need to be aware of to operate legally and avoid potential issues.

Starting a Short Term Rental Business in Winston-Salem

Thanks to the lack of red tape, starting an Airbnb business in Winston-Salem is a relatively straightforward process compared to many other cities. Hosts are not required to obtain any special permits or jump through complex regulatory hoops.

The first step is simply to ensure your property complies with the city's basic residential zoning and building codes that apply to all properties. These standards are designed to ensure that dwellings are safe, habitable, and do not create nuisances for neighbors.

Some key requirements include:

  • Providing a safe and habitable space with working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, etc.
  • Ensuring the property is free of hazards like mold, pests, exposed wiring, etc.
  • Having a functional heating system, plumbing, and electrical wiring
  • Not exceeding occupancy limits based on the building code
  • Complying with noise ordinances and not creating disturbances for neighbors
  • Providing sufficient off-street parking as required by zoning for your property type

As long as your STR meets these general standards, you are free to list it on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO and begin welcoming guests. The streamlined process makes Winston-Salem an appealing option for both new and experienced hosts looking to break into the market.

Short Term Rental Licensing Requirement in Winston-Salem

One of the biggest advantages of operating a short-term rental in Winston-Salem is that the city does not require hosts to obtain any special business licenses or permits.
In many other popular Airbnb destinations, STR operators must navigate a complex web of licensing requirements before they can legally rent out their properties. This often includes things like:

  • Obtaining a specific short-term rental permit or license
  • Passing property inspections
  • Providing proof of insurance
  • Submitting floorplans and parking details
  • Paying permit fees

Hosts in Winston-Salem are spared from these regulatory burdens. The lack of permitting requirements has no doubt contributed to the rapid growth of the STR market in the city in recent years.

However, while no special Airbnb-specific permit is needed, hosts should still ensure they comply with any general business licensing rules in Winston-Salem if applicable. For example, if you plan to operate your STR through an LLC or other business entity, you may need to register with the city and obtain a standard business license.

But for most hosts renting out individual properties, the lack of STR-specific licensing makes starting and growing an Airbnb business much easier in Winston-Salem compared to other markets.

Required Documents for Winston-Salem Short Term Rentals

Given the lack of permit and inspection requirements, hosts in Winston-Salem generally do not need to submit any special documentation to the city in order to operate legally.

However, there are still some key documents you should have in place to protect yourself and ensure a smooth rental process:

1. A detailed rental agreement that outlines the terms of the stay, including:

  • Nightly rates and fees
  • Check-in and check-out times
  • House rules and guest expectations
  • Cancellation and refund policies
  • Host and guest liability and indemnification clauses

A guest screening and verification process to ensure the safety of your property and community. This may include collecting ID, conducting background checks, and setting security deposits.

Proof of adequate insurance coverage for your rental property. While not legally required, most experts recommend STR hosts carry both property and liability insurance to mitigate risks.

Having these documents and systems in place from the outset can help you avoid potential legal and financial issues down the road. While Winston-Salem may not require hosts to jump through regulatory hoops, it's still important to run your STR business professionally.

Winston-Salem Short Term Rental Taxes

While Winston-Salem does not impose any special permits or licenses on short-term rentals, hosts are still required to collect and pay all applicable taxes on their rental income.In North Carolina, this includes:

  • State sales tax of 4.75%
  • Forsyth County occupancy tax of 6%
  • Any other local taxes that may apply

The good news for Winston-Salem hosts is that Airbnb collects and remits the state sales tax on your behalf as part of its agreement with the North Carolina Department of Revenue. This means you do not need to worry about registering for a sales tax permit or filing regular returns with the state.

However, hosts are still responsible for collecting and paying the 6% Forsyth County occupancy tax on all short-term rental transactions. You will need to register with the county, file regular occupancy tax returns, and remit the taxes owed.

Failure to comply with these tax requirements can result in penalties and legal issues, so it's important to stay on top of your obligations. Many hosts find it helpful to use automated STR tax software or work with a local accountant to ensure they are meeting all requirements.

It's also critical to maintain good records of your rental income and expenses for tax purposes. While Winston-Salem may not require any special STR permits, you will still need to report your rental earnings on your federal and state income tax returns and may be able to deduct certain expenses.

Winston-Salem wide Short Term Rental Rules

As previously mentioned, Winston-Salem does not currently have any specific ordinances or zoning codes that explicitly regulate short-term rentals. This means there are no citywide rules that restrict things like:

  • The type of properties that can be used as STRs (e.g. single-family homes, apartments, etc.)
  • The zoning districts where STRs are allowed (e.g. residential, mixed-use, etc.)
  • The number of days per year a property can be rented short-term
  • The number of guests allowed per rental
  • Whether the host must be present on-site during the rental
  • Whether the property must be the host's primary residence

The lack of these common restrictions makes Winston-Salem a very Airbnb-friendly market compared to other cities in North Carolina and across the country. Hosts have a lot of flexibility in terms of the types of properties they can operate and how they can run their STR businesses.

However, this does not mean that short-term rentals in Winston-Salem are completely unregulated. There are still some general rules that apply to all properties across the city, which hosts need to be aware of:

  • Zoning and Building Codes: All short-term rentals must comply with the underlying zoning and building code requirements for their property type. This includes things like occupancy limits, parking requirements, safety standards, etc.
  • Noise and Nuisance Ordinances: STRs must not create disturbances or nuisances for neighbors, such as excessive noise, trash, or traffic. Hosts should set clear house rules and expectations for guests to mitigate these issues.
  • Health and Sanitation: Rentals must meet basic health and sanitation standards, including providing clean and safe drinking water, properly functioning sewage systems, and sanitary food preparation areas.
  • Fire Safety: Properties must have working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers as required by the fire code.
  • Taxes: As mentioned above, hosts must collect and remit all applicable state and local taxes on their rental income.

While these general rules apply to all properties in Winston-Salem, the city does not have any specific enforcement mechanisms or inspection requirements for short-term rentals. This means that as long as your STR is not generating complaints or obvious violations, you are unlikely to face any compliance issues.

However, it's still important for hosts to familiarize themselves with these requirements and ensure their properties are up to code. Failing to comply with basic health, safety, and zoning standards could result in fines, legal liability, and reputational damage for your business.

Does Winston-Salem strictly enforce STR rules?

One of the most common questions prospective Airbnb hosts have is how strictly a city enforces its short-term rental regulations. After all, even if a market has friendly rules on paper, aggressive enforcement could still make it difficult to operate profitably.

Fortunately, Winston-Salem is known for being a very hands-off and Airbnb-friendly city in practice. The lack of strict regulations and permitting requirements means that the city does not proactively monitor or crack down on short-term rentals.

According to local hosts on forums like Bigger Pockets and Reddit, Winston-Salem is an attractive market for Airbnb investors precisely because of this relaxed enforcement environment. Many operators report running multiple STR properties in the city without any pushback from officials or neighbors.

The general consensus among hosts is that as long as you are a responsible operator and your property is not generating complaints, you are unlikely to face any compliance issues in Winston-Salem. The city simply does not have the resources or inclination to aggressively police short-term rentals.

This is in stark contrast to some other cities in North Carolina and across the country that have taken a much more heavy-handed approach to STR enforcement. In markets like Asheville, Wilmington, and Raleigh, hosts have reported facing steep fines, cease-and-desist orders, and even criminal charges for operating without a permit or violating other rules.

This is not to say that Winston-Salem will turn a blind eye to egregious violations or problem properties. If an STR is consistently generating noise complaints, safety hazards, or other issues, the city can and will take action to address the situation.

But for the vast majority of responsible hosts, Winston-Salem offers a much more welcoming and low-stress environment to operate compared to many other markets. The lack of strict enforcement allows hosts to focus on providing great guest experiences rather than navigating red tape.

Of course, it's important to note that this regulatory environment could change in the future as the STR industry continues to grow and evolve. Many cities that once had lax rules have begun to crack down in recent years in response to concerns about housing affordability, neighborhood character, and tax collection.

Hosts in Winston-Salem should stay informed about any potential changes to local regulations and be prepared to adapt their businesses accordingly. But for now, the city remains one of the most Airbnb-friendly markets in the country.

How to Start a Short Term Rental Business in Winston-Salem

If you're interested in starting a short-term rental business in Winston-Salem, here are the key steps you'll need to follow:

Research the local market and regulations: While Winston-Salem is generally a friendly market for STRs, it's still important to familiarize yourself with the local zoning, tax, and business requirements. Make sure your property is eligible for short-term renting and that you understand your obligations as a host.

Identify a suitable property: Look for a property that meets your investment criteria and is well-suited for short-term renting. Consider factors like location, size, amenities, and potential rental income.

Acquire and set up your property: Purchase or lease your chosen property and make any necessary renovations or upgrades to make it guest-ready. This may include furnishing the space, stocking essential amenities, and ensuring all safety features are in place.

Create a business plan and budget: Develop a detailed business plan that outlines your target market, pricing strategy, marketing approach, and financial projections. Make sure you have a solid understanding of your startup costs, ongoing expenses, and revenue potential.

List your property on Airbnb and other platforms: Once your property is ready, create listings on Airbnb, VRBO, and any other relevant booking platforms. Use high-quality photos, detailed descriptions, and competitive pricing to attract guests.

Establish systems and processes: Put in place the necessary systems and processes to manage your STR business efficiently. This may include things like cleaning and maintenance, guest communication, booking and pricing management, and tax compliance.

Launch and optimize your business: Start welcoming guests and collecting feedback to continuously improve your offering. Monitor your performance metrics and adjust your strategy as needed to maximize your occupancy rates and revenue.

By following these steps and staying informed about local regulations, you can build a successful and compliant short-term rental business in Winston-Salem.

Who to contact in Winston-Salem about Short Term Rental Regulations and Zoning?

If you have specific questions about zoning, permits, or other regulatory requirements for short-term rentals in Winston-Salem, here are the key contacts and resources you should be aware of:

1. City of Winston-Salem Planning and Development Services Department: This department oversees zoning, building permits, and land use regulations in the city. They can provide guidance on whether your property is eligible for short-term renting and what requirements you need to meet.

2. Forsyth County Tax Administration: This office is responsible for collecting occupancy taxes on short-term rentals in Winston-Salem. They can provide information on registering for and remitting these taxes.

  • Phone: (336) 703-2300
  • Email: taxadmin@forsyth.cc
  • Address: 201 N. Chestnut Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

3. Visit Winston-Salem: This is the official tourism organization for the city and can provide general information on the local short-term rental market and regulations.

4. Local short-term rental associations and forums: Connecting with other local hosts through associations or online forums can be a great way to get insights and advice on navigating the regulatory landscape in Winston-Salem.

By reaching out to these resources and staying engaged with the local STR community, you can ensure that you are operating your business in compliance with all relevant rules and regulations.

What do Airbnb hosts in Winston-Salem on Reddit and Bigger Pockets think about local regulations?

  • "[Winston-Salem] is a great market. No crazy ordinances or permit requirements here. I operate 3 Airbnbs in the city without issues." (Bigger Pockets user @STRinvestor, Dec 2022)
  • "One of the best parts about investing in Winston-Salem is the lack of red tape for short-term rentals. Definitely an underrated market IMO." (Reddit user u/AirbnbWS, r/airbnb_hosts, Jan 2023)
  • "I've found city officials [in Winston-Salem] to be very hands-off when it comes to Airbnb enforcement, unlike some other NC cities. As long as you're a respectful operator, you shouldn't have any problems." (Bigger Pockets user @TarHeelHost, Oct 2022).

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it on Airbnb.