When deciding whether to become an Airbnb host, it is important for you to understand the laws in your city or county. As a platform and marketplace, we do not provide legal advice, but we want to give you some useful links that may better help you understand relevant laws and regulations in Santa Cruz County. This list is not exhaustive, but it should give you a good start in understanding your local laws. If you have questions, contact the Santa Cruz County Planning Department, or consult a local lawyer or tax professional.
- Where do you live? The information on this page is specific to unincorporated Santa Cruz County. Different rules may apply to incorporated cities within Santa Cruz County (cities of Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Capitola, and Watsonville). If you live in one of these cities, please contact your local city administrator or planning department for more information.
- Short-Term Rental Ordinances: Vacation Rentals and Hosted Rentals. In Santa Cruz County, there are two types of short-term rentals (stays for 30 days or less): “Vacation Rentals” and “Hosted Rentals”. Short-term rental of an entire home requires a Vacation Rental Permit per County Code Section 13.10.694, most recently updated by Ordinances 5264 and 5265, on April 10, 2018. Short-term rentals of one or two rooms in a home requires a Hosted Rental Permit per County Code Section 13.10.690, adopted by Ordinance 5266 on June 6, 2018. Both permits are valid for five years.
- Dwelling Types where Short-Term Rentals Are Allowed. Short-term rentals are allowed in all zone districts that allow residential use by itself. Vacation rentals are allowed in single-family homes, duplexes or triplexes. Hosted rentals are allowed in any legal dwelling unit. Short-term rentals are not allowed in accessory structures, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), legally restricted affordable housing units, balconies, porches, sheds, tents and RVs.
- Maximum Permits Allowed. There are three beachfront neighborhoods (Live Oak, Seacliff/Aptos, and Davenport/Swanton Designated Areas) with limits on short-term rental permits. In the Live Oak and Seacliff/Aptos Designated Areas, 15% of total parcels may have short-term rental permits. In the Davenport/Swanton Designated Area, 10% of total parcels may have short-term rental permits. Short-term rental permits in these three areas are also limited to 20% of residential use parcels per block, with exceptions detailed in the County Code. In addition, there is a County-wide limit of 250 hosted rental permits. There is no County-wide limit for vacation rental permits.
- Maximum Number of Guests. Vacation rentals are allowed two overnight guests per bedroom plus two additional overnight guests. During the daytime, twice the number of overnight guests may be present at a vacation rental. Hosted rentals are allowed three guests per hosted bedroom.
- House Rules. The House Rules must be posted on site and must include at a minimum: rental age requirement, number of guests allowed, number of vehicles, noise limits, food/cooking requirements, pet requirements, prohibited events, trash management, and emergency evacuation instructions. Please see the Planning Department’s Vacation Rental and Hosted Rental application forms for a detailed list of these requirements.
- Transient Occupancy Taxes. Santa Cruz County imposes a 11% Transient Occupancy Tax on short-term rentals. Airbnb collects and remits the transient occupancy tax in unincorporated Santa Cruz County. However, Airbnb hosts must still complete a TOT application form with the County Treasurer-Tax Collector.
- Application Process. Short-term rental permits are processed at the Planning Department at 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz (4th Floor). Hosted rental permits may be processed over the counter. Vacation rental permits require Level IV review (public notice prior to issuance of permit) if the home has less than four bedrooms and Level V review (Zoning Administrator public hearing) if the home has four or more bedrooms.
- More Information. Visit the County’s Vacation Rental and Hosted Rental websites, visit the Planning Counter, email Planning.ZoningInfo@santacruzcounty.us or call the Zoning Information Line at (831) 454-2130.
- Other Rules. It is also important to understand and follow other contracts or rules that could apply to your home, such as leases, timeshare ownership rules, condo board or co-op rules, HOA rules, or rules established by tenant organizations. Please read your lease agreement and check with your landlord if applicable.
We are committed to working with local officials to clarify what these rules mean in the context of the sharing economy, and helping them understand how Airbnb benefits our community. Where needed, we will continue to advocate for changes that will allow regular people to rent out their homes.