STR, also known as temporary housing, is rapidly becoming one of California’s most popular types of rental accommodation. Also referred to as “short-term rentals” and “vacation rentals,” STRs are suitable for working professionals, families, and students looking for a less expensive option than traditional long-term leases.

With the rise of platforms such as Airbnb, str property management rules have become increasingly important for owners of residential properties in California. Since vacation rentals are subject to unique regulations, owners must know and understand the laws before renting their properties.

Short-Term Rental Guide

Short Term Rental Guide

We’ll review in this short-term rental in California guide some key rules you should be aware of when considering renting your property on a short-term basis in California.

What is a Short-Term Rental?

Short-term rentals provide much-needed convenience for people looking for alternative housing options on their travels. A short-term rental is an occupancy of one or more consecutive days with a maximum duration of thirty days in any given year.

California doesn’t have a single set of laws encompassing all types and forms of rental units. Instead, different legislation applies to land use zones or specific governmental bodies and jurisdictions. 

This means that depending on where your property is located; you may need to familiarize yourself with local ordinances or consult a lawyer before deciding what type of contract to offer potential guests. Many nuances will become evident after reading this short-term rental guide.

Legal Structure

When initiating a short-term rental (STR) business in California, many legal structures exist. Each structure has advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed when deciding which is best for your STR business. Some of the most common include,

  • Corporation: A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders with limited personal liability for the debts and obligations of the company.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC offers some of the same protections as a corporation but has more flexibility in how it is organized and managed and fewer formalities, making it easier to manage.
  • Limited Partnership: A Limited Partnership consists of one or more general partners with day-to-day control over the operations. Other partners provide capital but do not participate in management decisions. This arrangement limits their liability for corporate debts and obligations.
  • General Partnership: General Partnerships consist of two or more individuals who share responsibility for management decisions and liabilities; these types offer less protection than corporations or LLCs but are often simpler to form than such entities.
  • Limited Liability Partnership: Limited Liability Partnerships are similar to General Partnerships. Certain members are insulated from third-party litigation based on non-business actions done by LLP partners.
  • Sole Proprietorship: Sole Proprietorships have no owners outside those who actively control the business; however, they offer no financial protection since all risk is assumed solely by the owner(s).

The majority of California’s short-term rental laws affect homes. They can also apply to commercial buildings with short-term tenants, such as restaurants. Hotels may have stricter occupancy limits or fire safety regulations than residential properties.

Documents Required for Short-Term Rentals

To ensure your business complies with state and local regulations, here are some documents to check off your list.

  • Name of Your Company: To safeguard that no other entity in California has claimed the suggested name of your business, you must formally register it with the Secretary of State’s office.
  • Articles of Incorporation or Organization: It is necessary to submit Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization to the Secretary of State when establishing a Limited Liability Company or Corporation.
  • EIN Number: Obtaining an EIN from the IRS is the first step in starting and running an STR business in the U.S. This number functions as an employer’s Social Security number, allowing permit and authorization applications.
  • Local Requirements: Last, study California’s short-term renting rules. This may require permits and licenses depending on where you do business. It may be wise to contact local and state agencies in advance.

Tax Obligations

Owning a short-term rental business can be profitable but know the taxes first. It is necessary to follow certain rules to obtain tax benefits in California. These rules require renting your property for 14 days each year and using it yourself for 10% of the time.

Owners must record rental income on their tax returns. Taxes must be paid by April to avoid penalties. You may be able to claim short-term rental business asset expenses on your tax return.

  • Repairs And Maintenance: Regularly updating your vacation rental business is important. All repairs done throughout the year are tax deductible.
  • Insurance Premiums: It’s essential to have insurance to protect yourself if something happens while renting one of your properties. You can deduct your premiums on taxes.
  • TOT: In California, the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) applies to all transient occupancy rentals, including Airbnb or other vacation rental websites. Depending on the city or county you rent, TOT rates range from 7%-14%. These are also deductible when filing annual taxes!
  • Utilities: Providing utilities like gas, electricity, and water/sewer costs to people who stay at one of your rentals is a tax-deductible expense to remember when filing taxes on April 15th!
  • Supplies: From wine glasses to pool toys that guests may request access to during their stay, these supplies are also deductible come tax season!
  • Legal & Accounting Fees: Legal and accounting fees must also be considered to ensure proper documentation and regulations compliance.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy

Benefits of Finding the Right Storage Unit

Why You Should Purchase Real Estate Property

Boost Your Income from Your Vacation Property Rental

6 Rules to Being a Successful Landlord

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author: Patricia Davis Brown

Patricia, like her blog, is not a one-dimensional designer, which is evident in her accolades of 17 national design awards. Over a 38-year career in the industry, she has carved a niche in several areas of design. Licensed in interior design and certified in kitchen and bath design, she offers a full menu of design services ranging from whole house interior design, kitchen and bath design, lighting design, full remodels, commercial design and universal (ADA) design. Patricia is a sought-after speaker in the industry and has been published in many publications as seen on her interior design firm’s website, She writes for such publications as QuinStreetinc, Relaxed Remodeler, and talent offering design tips.