Short-Term Rentals

Page updated: 11/6/19

Washoe County is in the process of establishing standards for short-term rentals in the unincorporated County (outside of Reno and Sparks)*. Staff recommendations for short-term rentals are scheduled to be heard by the Board of County Commissioners Nov. 12, 2019, at or after 1:30 p.m. The agenda, including meeting location, is available online here.

View FAQs about short-term rentals (PDF)
View report with staff recommendations (PDF)

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 28-days or fewer.

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 to the Board?

After significant research, public engagement, and analysis, staff has created a series of STR recommendations for consideration by the Board of County Commissioners. Please note that the development of these recommendations is a fluid process and recommendations are subject to change or elimination. This item is scheduled to be heard at the Board's Nov. 12, 2019 meeting, at or after 1:30 p.m. The agenda, including meeting location, is available online here.

The Board will be asked to either confirm the proposals or provide additional policy direction prior to staff releasing specific code language for further review. The staff report is available online here. The following bullets represent highlights of the recommendations found within the staff report. 

Staff recommendations (current 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 supersede 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 septic system sizing (if applicable).
  • 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 and fine structure designed to ensure implementation and enforcement of STRs is paid for by STR owners.
  • Wildlife-resistant trash carts or bear boxes needed in bear-prone areas.
  • Quiet hours will be applicable.
  • Board asked to consider decibel-monitoring devices for higher-occupancy STRs and/or problem STRs.
  • 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 average nightly rates.
  • Three confirmed violations in 6-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 Board for their consideration. Following the Board's Nov. 12 meeting, staff expects to create draft code language that reflects the Board's policy direction. That language will then be made available for a 21-day public comment period, after which the official public hearing process will begin (to include hearings by the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners).

*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

Information gathered from the survey and workshops has been used to draft approaches for consideration by the Board of County Commissioners. County staff has also been meeting with various impacted agencies to discuss potential standards, processes and enforcement capabilities/mechanisms. Draft recommendations from staff are scheduled to be heard by the Board Nov. 12, 2019, at or after 1:30 p.m. The agenda, including meeting location, is available online here, and the staff report is available online here.

The Board is expected to provide direction to staff at the November meeting. Following that, staff will draft proposed code language and make it available for a 21-day public comment period. Once that period ends, the official public hearing process will begin, with hearings by both the Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners expected prior to adoption.

Have questions?

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

If you'd like to provide feedback on the draft recommendations for short-term rentals, please email str@washoecounty.us.

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