Short-Term Rentals

Page updated: 1/14/20

Washoe County is in the process of establishing standards for short-term rentals in the unincorporated County (outside of Reno and Sparks)*. Over the summer, the first phase of public outreach was completed, including three public workshops, a series of stakeholder meetings and an online survey. That input was used to draft approaches for consideration by the Board of County Commissioners (Board), who provided direction on those recommendations at their Nov. 12, 2019 meeting. Draft code language reflecting public input and Board direction was then made available for public comment through Dec. 11, 2019. Updated draft code language was reviewed and recommended for approval by the Planning Commission on Jan. 7, 2020. It will next return to the Board for additional review and possible adoption in late February/early March 2020. Specific dates for those meetings will be provided here when finalized.

What is a short-term rental?

Short-term rentals are generally operated out of private residences such as homes, apartments and condos. They are commonly made available through property management companies and online booking services such as Airbnb and VRBO. They are also commonly called vacation rentals, and are generally booked for fewer than 28 days.

What does the County want to achieve?

Washoe County intends to establish simple, fair and enforceable standards for short-term rentals that balance competing interests and maximize voluntary compliance.

What are staff's recommendations?

After significant research, public engagement, and analysis, staff created a series of STR recommendations for initial consideration by the Board of County Commissioners, who provided direction at their Nov. 12, 2019 meeting. A video of that discussion is available online here, with the item beginning at approximately 01:50:30. Draft code language will next be presented to the Planning Commission at their Jan. 7, 2020 meeting. View the staff report here.

The following bullets represent highlights of the recommendations found within the staff report. 

Staff recommendations (proposals only; not adopted):

  • Short-term rental permit required for all STRs operating in unincorporated Washoe County.
  • Every STR must have a designated 24/7 responsible party who can respond to issues within a 30-minute timeframe.
  • Limit of one STR per parcel.
  • Annual renewal of STR permit required.
  • Applicable room taxes must be paid. 
  • Issuance of County STR permit does not relieve the property owner of complying with other applicable codes, regulations, statutes or other restrictions, including private CC&Rs that restrict such a use (property owner still responsible for compliance with recorded CC&Rs).
  • Three permitting tiers are proposed based on maximum occupancy. Additional restrictions and/or permitting requirements will apply at higher tiers.
  • Designated parking spaces to be provided on the property in a sufficient number to cover the STR's maximum occupancy.
  • Occupancy limits to be based on internationally recognized safety codes/standards, and may be further limited by availability of on-site parking and/or self-limitations imposed by the property owner.
  • Minimum fire, safety and defensible space standards will be applicable.
  • Prior to issuance of STR permit, inspection(s) will need to be passed. Cost of inspections will be paid for by applicant.
  • Cost-neutral fee structure designed to ensure implementation and enforcement of STRs is paid for by STR owners.
  • Wildlife-resistant trash carts or bear sheds needed in bear-prone areas.
  • Quiet hours are proposed for 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Decibel-monitoring devices required for STRs with two confirmed noise violations.
  • Appropriate liability insurance specific to STRs will need to be obtained.
  • Three-pronged approach to enforcement includes: (1) actively pursuing licensing compliance; (2) annual inspections; and (3) 24/7 complaint hotline with confirmed violations resulting in fines and potential penalties such as revocation.
  • Fines/penalties to be structured to be significant enough to deter violations, with fine amounts being based on a scaled system that increases with number of violations.
  • Three confirmed violations in 12-month period to result in revocation and 12-month cooling off period.

It is important to note this is not an exhaustive list and represents recommendations from staff to the deciding boards/commissions for their consideration. The draft of code language reflecting these recommendations can be reviewed through the links near the top of this page.

*What is "unincorporated Washoe County"?

Unincorporated Washoe County includes those areas of the County located outside of the city limits of Reno and Sparks. It includes areas such as Incline Village, Washoe Valley, Spanish Springs, Hidden Valley, Sun Valley, portions of Verdi and Cold Springs, and others. If you’re not sure if a location is within unincorporated Washoe County, click here to find out.

Recent public engagement

Washoe County held three public workshops in August 2019 regarding short-term rentals. Two workshops were held in Incline Village and all workshops followed a similar format intended to gather feedback on concerns, possible solutions, and opportunities associated with establishing standards and a permitting process. An online survey was also available until early September for those unable to attend the public workshops or those who wished to provide expanded comments.

Survey and workshop topics included: short-term rental permitting requirements; Incline-specific concerns; fire and guest safety; and possible impacts to quality of life such as parking, trash, or noise. Public input from the survey and workshops has been used to assist County staff in their efforts to establish simple, fair and enforceable standards for short-term rentals.

View workshop presentation (PDF)
View FAQs about short-term rentals (PDF)

Next steps

The 21-day public comment period on draft language closed on Dec. 11, 2019. Updated draft language was reviewed and recommended for approval by the Planning Commission at their Jan. 7, 2020 meeting.  Draft language will next be presented to the Board of County Commissioners (anticipated to occur in winter 2020). View the staff report for the Jan. 7, 2020 Planning Commission hearing.

Have questions?

If you have questions, please email str@washoecounty.us or view a list of frequently asked questions.

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