Local permit for short-term rentals required for an Airbnb business?


Well-known member
Oct 30, 2023
Hey guys, I got a question that I came across on Reddit recently, and figured this would be the perfect place to post it. A user on Reddit is interested in starting their own Airbnb business, and would like to know if it's really necessary to obtain a local permit for short-term rentals. They are unsure if the other Airbnb hosts in the area are permitted, but they believe some aren't.

The user was told to first obtain a permit for their property, he unfortunately found, that it could be a long process to do so. They want to know if it's really necessary to obtain a local county, township, or state permit to start an Airbnb in their area or local county?

You can find this post here: r/airbnb_hosts
Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States
The best thing you can do to start, is to research your local laws on whether your region requires a permit or not for short-term rentals. Some locations will require a permit, while others will not. Research and comply with local regulations in order to avoid any legal issues down the road.

Aside from that, you should be aware of the zoning laws in the area. Some zoning laws might restrict the user of your property for the user of short-term rentals. You may also want to contact an insurance agent in regards to obtaining proper insurance for the project, as you won't be covered in case of an accident or damage otherwise.

I would do the work to make sure all is permitted within the code of the law. Even if you feel that nothing might happen, regulations can change and due to that, enforcement can intensify. It's a risk to go unpermitted, as you could face penalties later, such as your operation being forced to shut down.

So my best suggestion, is to look up your local rules and law, and get a permit if it's a requirement in your area.
The question here is really about the township's enforcement of its short-term rental ordinance rather than whether a permit is required. The Reddit user knows they need a permit but was told that it's a long/uncertain process. They mention later in that thread that they're considering purchasing a house strictly for Airbnb rental purposes but may not want to do so if the permit process is going to take a long time or may result in a denial. They mention that other Airbnb hosts appear to be operating in the area without permits which is leading them to wonder whether the ordinance is really enforced. It's a perfectly logical question for this person to ask and speaks to the fact that laws are only as meaningful as their enforcement. Federal marijuana law is a good example of this. Marijuana's illegal at the federal level but DOJ has effectively applied a non-enforcement policy over the last 10+ years.
Here is what I think about the topic, operating an AIRBNB business requires permit or licenses but you must know that it also has to depend on the local regulation and zoning laws as well. Based on my experience, many cities have specific rules that is governing short-term rentals.
As long as you are making money, anything you do will require to get a perm it. Making money means you are doing business, and no matter the size of business, you are subject to taxes, therefore, you need permits. If you see someone operating Airbnb without getting permit, you should understand that his business is illegal and sooner or later, he will be booked by law.