What is a short-term rental?
The legal definition of a short-term rental varies by state and even by city. Two primary considerations affect whether a property qualifies.
The first consideration is structure. Many jurisdictions, including New York City and Nevada, prohibit short-term rentals in multifamily residential buildings, such as apartments and condominiums. Others cap the number of bedrooms. In Richmond, Virginia, this number is five, while Las Vegas limits the number of bedrooms to three. Still other places, such as San Francisco, only allow short-term rentals of a host's primary residence. Note that many cities require hosts to obtain a permit before renting out a property or unit.
The second consideration is the length of the stay. Some places set minimum lengths for short-term stays. Nevada requires that such stays last at least two nights, for example. Most places cap the length of short-term rentals. The most common maximum is 30 days.
Due to the variety and changing nature of short-term rental laws, it may be a good idea to talk to a lawyer before renting your property. Reach out to a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney to learn about the laws in your area.
Who is a landlord?
In the broadest terms, a landlord is a party that leases property to another party, typically called the tenant, in exchange for rent. The landlord usually, but not always, owns the leased property. Landlords owe legal duties to their tenants, including making sure the leased property remains safe, clean, and habitable.
Simply charging someone money to stay on your property does not make you a landlord. Otherwise, all hotel owners would be landlords. All states exempt short-term stays from their landlord-tenant laws. Most states consider someone a tenant after they have lived on the property for more than 30 days. This period may differ, however. For example, Virginia's landlord-tenant law does not apply to rental agreements shorter than 90 days.
If you want to avoid landlord-tenant laws, learn the maximum stay limits in your area and get rid of short-term renters who approach those limits. You may also want to have a lawyer review your short-term rental agreement or Vacation Lease to confirm you are meeting local legal requirements.
If I am a renter, but I offer my rental for a short-term lease while I am on vacation, am I a landlord?
No, assuming that the short-term lease is not long enough to trigger your state's landlord-tenant laws (30 days in most states). However, if your guest overstays their welcome, you may become their landlord, and may find yourself in a complicated legal situation. In this situation, getting legal help as soon as your short-term renter overstays their agreement can potentially save you a lot of time and hassle. If this happens, having a clear, written agreement can be very helpful.
If I sublease my rental temporarily, am I considered a landlord?
Yes, assuming that the sublease term is long enough for your state's landlord-tenant laws to apply (30 days in most states). Although your landlord still has control and responsibility for the property with both tenants and subtenants, you would execute your own Sublease Agreement with each subtenant. This agreement puts you, the renter, in the position of the landlord with regard to the subtenant. It means that you, the renter, are responsible for making sure that your subtenant complies with the terms of the Sublease Agreement as well as your original Lease Agreement.
Many Lease Agreements prohibit subletting either entirely or without the landlord's permission. You may, however, execute a Lease Amendment memorializing your landlord's permission to sublet the property.
What about if I charge my friend or relative rent to occupy my rental while I'm away?
Depending on how long you plan to be away, this may be a sublease rather than a short-term rental. If it is long enough to trigger your state's landlord-tenant laws, you could be considered a landlord regardless of the subtenant's relationship to you. Even if it is a short trip, it is a good idea to sign a Vacation Lease.
If you plan an extended absence from your rental, you may want to make a Roommate Agreement with your friend or relative, in addition to a Sublease Agreement. A Roomate Agreement can help make sure the relationship is clearly defined. Always be sure to check your lease and obtain your landlord's written permission, if required, before allowing anyone to move in, even temporarily.
Am I a landlord if I rent out my apartment during a big event?
No state applies its landlord-tenant laws to rental agreements shorter than one week, so you would not likely be considered a landlord.
When big events come to your city, the short-term rental market can be rather lucrative. Keep in mind that many places, including New York City and Los Angeles, prohibit short-term rentals in apartment buildings. Others may have strict rules and require getting a permit, license, or insurance, in advance of listing your unit.
If you have more legal questions about offering short-term or vacation rentals in your area, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer OnCall® attorney for affordable legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.