Washingtion, D.C.

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City Ordinance for Short Term Rentals in Washington, D.C.

Navigating the rules around short term and vacation rentals in Washington, D.C.

Summary of the City:

Stressed by a dwindling affordable housing supply, the city of Washington D.C. introduced a bill to regulate the short-term rental industry.  The city’s issues with short-term rentals reflect many of those found around the nation: a squeeze on affordable housing and properties being run as hotels in neighborhoods have pushed conflict around the industry to the forefront.  In 2017, the city introduced new regulation that would make it illegal for property owners to have multiple short-term rentals and substantially limit the number of days that a short-term rental could be rented if the owner is away from the home.  This regulation is currently under consideration.

Main Takeaways:

    • Current short-term rental rules require that hosts have a business license but otherwise are vague and unenforceable.
    • A new regulation would make it illegal for property owners to have multiple short-term rental listings.
    • The regulation could limit the amount of days a short-term rental could be rented out without the owner present to 15 days.


A strain on the affordable housing supply in Washington, D.C. resulted in the introduction of the Short-term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2017introduced by Councilmember McDuffie, the bill would regulate transient housing accommodations offering stays of less than 30 days.  Under this act, a new license category would be created for those running short-term rentals, and hosts would only be allowed to run one short-term rental at a time and must be D.C. permanent residents. There would be a 15-day cap on the number of days that a property could be rented out without the owner present. Those who violate the proposed rules could be fined up to $1,000 for the first instance and up to $7,000 for subsequent violations.

The city is firm in that they don’t want to make the industry illegal, they simply want to regulate it. The law is aimed at commercial operators who buy out properties and rent them out solely as short-term rentals for profit; this takes them off the market for permanent residents and drives up rents and prices on other property in the area.

The Working Families Party in Washington D.C. is one organization that strongly favors the bill and which organized dozens of people to testify in favor of it.  According to the organization, Airbnb and other home-sharing sites are making it lucrative for property owners to kick out low-rent tenants and conduct short-term rentals. In addition, a group backed by hotel union, ShareBetter, also supports the measure, claiming that 40% of Airbnb’s listing are commercial operators.  Other supporters include the American Institute of Architects and D.C. Jobs with Justice.

Opponents include Airbnb and many hosts who believe the 15-day limit is too strict, while others report that renting out a home that is not a principal residence has been a source of income needed for survival.        

Is my STR legal?

    • Currently, hosts must have a business license and follow zoning laws.


Washington, D.C. City Council

Share Better D.C. Chapter