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Seattle, Washington Airbnb Laws: Step-By-Step Guide

Updated: Mar 27, 2023


Splendorous Seattle


On a rare blue sky day in Seattle, you can see mighty Mt. Rainier impose itself over the city's ever-growing skyline. The tech metropolis is one of the crown jewels of the Northwest, attracting visitors from all over the world to see the Space Needle, original Starbucks, or the city's famed sports teams like the Seahawks, Storm, and Mariners.


Beyond just being a hub for tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, Seattle is a paradise for outdoor thrill seekers and nature enthusiasts. Just a 30 minutes drive away you can find epic hikes in the picturesque cascades, or sail the opposite way to idyllic Bainbridge Island by ferry.


On top of all of that, the Seattle culinary scene is one of the most vibrant in the country. You can't walk through Capitol Hill, one of the trendier areas, without catching a waft of hearty Pho or spicy Pad Thai.


All these amenities and perks make Seattle a top tier destination. It also makes it expensive.

For visitors looking for a more affordable accommodation option, Airbnb or VRBO rental properties can be a great choice. For investors, there's a prime opportunity to capitalize on the short term rental market through owning a rental property /property management. A quick scroll through the Airbnb app will reveal just how profitable owning a short term rental in the city can be.


Before you go on a home buying frenzy, make big plans for your Airbnbs, or get wide-eyed about how much money you can make, it’s important to understand the extensive regulations the city has in place, such as only being able to own two dwelling units -- one of which must be your primary residence.


If you operate short-term rentals (STRs) in Seattle, you must complete these three steps.

(We can handle the rest if you need a property manager.)

  • Business License Tax Certificate

  • RRIO Inspection

  • Regulatory license


STEP 1: GET A BUSINESS LICENSE TAX CERTIFICATE


To start, all Airbnb hosts must obtain a business license from the Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services. Additionally, hosts must also register with the Department of Finance and Administrative Services’ Short-Term Rental Unit.

*If you have a business license tax certificate already, skip this step!


How do I get a business license tax certificate?

  • Create an account with FileLocal and enter your information. Be sure to have your UBI (Unique Business Identifier) number ready. Here is a document from FileLocal outlining step-by-step how to set up your account: https://www.filelocal-wa.gov/ReferenceDocuments/flqsg.pdf

If you operate short-term rentals (STRs) in Seattle, you must complete these three steps.

(We can handle the rest.)

  • Business License Tax Certificate

  • RRIO Inspection

  • Regulatory license


STEP 2: GET AN RRIO INSPECTION


Units must undergo an RRIO inspection. This is a Seattle ordinance that requires landlords to inspect and maintain their rental property at least once every four years. The inspection includes a visual inspection of the exterior and interior of the rental property, an examination of the rental unit’s systems, and an evaluation of the rental unit for health and safety hazards. The inspection must be conducted by a licensed inspector and must meet or exceed the minimum standards of the RRIO.

*If you have been previously doing long term rentals, your property manager has this inspection. You will just need to request it and send it over to us.

How do I get an RRIO Registration and Inspection?

  • Go to the Seattle Services Portal. Scroll down to RRIO and click it.


What do I need for RRIO registration?

  • First you need to look up your parcel number on the King County Assessor website.

  • Next, you’ll need to specify contact info and the number of units on your property.

  • Here is a FULL STEP-BY-STEP BREAKDOWN on how to register a rental property for RRIO: https://seattlegov.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115007569148-How-to-Register-a-Rental-Property-for-RRIO

How do I get an inspection?

  • The City of Seattle gives another comprehensive overview of how to get an inspection.

  • You can either do a City Inspection or a Private Inspection.

  • Note: Private Inspections will cost $40 extra in processing fees.

  • To schedule a City inspector, call (206) 684-4110 and select option 3.

  • To hire a private inspector, select from this list:

  • A RRIO inspection will follow a checklist of basic safety and maintenance requirements. The RRIO inspection looks at common areas & units.

  • If your property does not pass the RRIO inspection, you need to correct the safety or maintenance issues and pass a re-inspection by the due date on your letter.

  • The fee is $175 per property. This registration is good for five years.

STEP 3: APPLY FOR AN STR REGULATORY LICENSE

  • Go back to the Seattle Services Portal that you were just on for the RRIO inspection. This time you will scroll down to “Licenses - Short Term Rentals.” See below:

Here is a FULL STEP-BY-STEP BREAKDOWN of how to set up this regulatory license, courtesy of the City of Seattle:

  • The fee for this license is $75 per unit and is valid for a year.

STEP 4: WE HANDLE THE REST!


Stay Flourish offers property management services for this area, so you don't have to worry about the daily hassle of running your units If you have a property in Seattle, our on-staff cleaners and maintenance techs, and local manager would love to look at your property and give you a FREE consultation.


If you choose to work with Stay Flourish, we can handle everything else that's needed.

Once you send us your rental license number and permit number, we will build your STR listing to be in compliance.


Short-term Rental Operator Licenses issued by the City must be posted on every listing advertising or offering the short-term rental unit, including listings on platforms (e.g VRBO, Expedia, Airbnb etc.).


The short-term rental license must be posted in this format: STR-OPLI-##-######. Example: STR-OPLI-21-000123. Platforms may remove listings if the license number is not formatted correctly.


Still on the fence about if you need a short term rental manager? Curious what the benefits are? We encourage you to dive into the following topics:



Disclaimer: We hope this blog post has provided you with helpful information about the Airbnb rental laws in Seattle, Washington. Please note, however, that this post is not intended as legal advice, and we are not responsible for any decisions made based on the information provided in this post.

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