South Lake Tahoe, California

 image result for tahoe

City Ordinance for Short Term Rentals in South Lake Tahoe
Navigating the rules around short term and vacation rentals in South Lake Tahoe

Summary of City: South Lake Tahoe is a charming city in the Sierra Nevada of California wrestling with the impact of tourism, especially in the exploding short-term rental industry (called Vacation Home Rentals in the city).  The City has made yearly changes to its ordinances on vacation home rentals and have had to respond to a lawsuit in court over some of the regulations that have been put in place. While the City is dependent on tourism and the taxes it brings in, it also is trying to be responsive and mindful of the needs of its permanent residents. The City has had several special council meetings and workshops with the community; however, the ability to appease all parties has been difficult, with neighborhood groups exploring the options of referendum to get their needs met to lessen the impact of noise and trash that vacation home rentals bring to their communities.

Main TakeAways:

  • A proposed ordinance would place a cap of 1,400 short-term rentals outside of the City tourism core. There would be a minimum of 150 feet between each vacation home rental (VHR), although homeowner associations would be able for an exemption from this rule.
  • In the new ordinance, the warning for a code violation has been removed, and if a property receives three violations within a two-year period, its permit will be revoked. The fine has also been bumped up to $1,000 from $250.
  • Vacation Home Rentals in multi-family housing, unless grandfathered in, are illegal under current City ordinance.

In 2015, the City of South Lake Tahoe approved updated regulations for Vacation Home Rentals, including required inspections, notification of neighbors within 300 ft of a proposed VHR, and time for people to protest.  In response to noise complaints, the ordinance also increased annual permit fees, which are doubled for VHRs with more than three code violations. The regulations sparked a flurry of dissent from the real estate community, which felt that the regulations would impact the housing market.  As a result, the South Lake Tahoe Vacation Rental Alliance ( ) filed suit against the city council over new fees and enforcement regulations adopted, a suit that was won by the City in 2016.

The following year, the City made changes to clarify the original ordinance and to enact a prohibition on multi-family property vacation units. This was opposed by many hosts, who said they would lose important income. Those hosts who already were operating VHRs in multi-family housing were grandfathered in.

However, in 2017, many stresses in the community caused the City to revisit the issue, resulting in yet another proposed ordinance that tries to strike a balance between the needs of its residents and tourists. While the tourist occupancy tax is needed for the City's budget as well as for the funding of the new South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center, there is also an agreement that the makeup of neighborhoods has changed, prompting some residents to call for the ban of VHRs. The ordinance limits the number of VHRs to 1,400 in the City and sets a density of one VHR every 150 feet.

However, many in the community were not happy with the compromises made in the ordinance, wanting a density of one VHR per 250 feet to help mitigate problems of noise and trash. The South Tahoe Neighborhood group said they are ready to take the ordinance to the voters if they don’t get their 250 feet. In response, Mayor Pro Tem Wendy David.Compromise said that a density of 250 feet would bring the industry down and that the ordinance was a compromise with the industry and the community as well as between council members. Although the members weren’t in agreement with every aspect, they agreed to try it out for 18 months, leaving room for adjustments.

Is my rental legal?

  • A single family VHR is not required to get a business license, but a multi-family dwelling used as a VHR does.
  • All single family and multi-family houses must obtain a Vacation House Rental permit.
  • Unless grandfathered in, VHRs in multi-family residences are illegal        
  • Exterior and interior signs must be displayed as well as a spa/hot tub sign if applicable.

There are three different kinds of vacation house rentals:

  1. Shared VHRs: The owner must be present at all time when guests are present.  The application is made over-the-counter.
  2. VHRs in the commercial/tourist core: If the VHS is in a zoned for commercial or tourist accommodation area, has staff on-site 24 hours a day/7 days a week, has private security that has a maximum 30-minute response time, has commercial trash service with a dumpster on-site, and has access to parking spaces above the minimum required for each VHR in the development, the host can apply for a over-the-counter permit.
  3. VHRs requiring Zoning Administrator Approval: For VHRs in residential areas and not classified as shared VHRs, a zoning administrator approval must be obtained; steps include a notification of neighbors within 300 feet of the property, an inspection of the property, and a public hearing with the Zoning Administrator.  If any of the neighbors object, a public hearing will be scheduled by the Zoning Administrator.  

Click here to see a map (at the bottom of the page) that we made a while back that lays out all of the legislation in each major city and the procedures they need to take to ensure their STR is legal. Legislation may have changed though since we posted this map, so double check and make sure that the legislation is still up to date!


VHR Clerk can be reached at (530)542-6011

VHR Enforcement contact number is (530)542-6100


Barnwell, J. (2015, June 15). Groups Seeks Lawsuit Against City Over Vacation Rentals. Retrieved from

Barnwell, J. (2015, August 5). South Lake Tahoe Finalized Vacation Rental Ordinance. Retrieved from

City of South Lake Tahoe Vacation Rental Website:

City of SLT wins lawsuit filed by Vacation Home Rental Group. (2016, June 29). South Tahoe Now. Retrieved from

Peterson, P. (2017, October 3). South Lake Tahoe Close to A New Vacation Rental Ordinance. Retrieved from