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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a vacation rental?

Vacation rentals are the rental of a private residence for periods of 30 days or less. Vacation rentals do not include Bed and Breakfast Inns or hosted rentals permitted in accordance with the Sonoma County Code for B&Bs and hosted rentals, or occasional home exchanges that are not otherwise subject to Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Vacation rentals must have a Certified Vacation Property Manager and meet Performance Standards to ensure compatibility with surrounding residential uses.

What is a hosted rental?

Hosted rentals are the rental of a single room or sleeping area within a single-family dwelling, where the property owner remains in residence. Hosted rentals do not include vacation rentals permitted in accordance with the Sonoma County Code for vacation rentals, or occasional home exchanges that are not otherwise subject to Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Hosted rentals must meet Performance Standards to ensure compatibility with surrounding residential uses.

Where are vacation rentals allowed?

Vacation rentals are allowed (with permit) in the following locations:

  • In homes in single-family residential zoning districts (AR, RR, and R1)
  • In existing single-family residences in the LC zoning district
  • Agricultural and resource zones including LEA, DA, and RRD (except for lands within an Agricultural Preserve that is subject to a Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act) Contract)

Vacation rentals are not allowed in the following locations:

  • Higher-density residential districts (R2 and R3)
  • Lands within an Agricultural Preserve that is subject to a Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act) Contract
  • Land Intensive Agriculture (LIA) zoned properties
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (previously known as Second Dwelling Units)
  • Farm Family, Agricultural Employee, or Farmworker housing units
  • Non-habitable structures
  • Areas designated (e.g. the Exclusion (X) Combining District)

If you are unsure of what your zoning is, please consult Permit Sonoma's Official Zoning Database.

Where are hosted rentals allowed?

Hosted rentals are allowed (with permit) in the following locations:

  • In homes in single-family residential zoning districts (AR, RR, and R1)
  • Agricultural and resource zones including LEA, DA, and RRD
  • The Exclusion (X) Combining District

Hosted rentals are not allowed in the following locations:

  • Higher-density residential districts (R2 and R3)
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (previously known as Second Dwelling Units)
  • Farm Family, Agricultural Employee, or Farmworker housing units
  • Non-habitable structures

If you are unsure of what your zoning is, please consult Permit Sonoma's Official Zoning Database.

Do I need a permit to operate a vacation rental?

Yes, if you are operating the vacation rental outside of the coastal zone. Your vacation rental will need either a zoning permit or a use permit, depending on the number of guest rooms and whether or not you hold special events like weddings and reunions. All vacation rentals also require a property manager that is certified by January 1, 2018. For more information about Vacation Rental Permits, please visit the main Vacation Rentals page. To find out whether or not your property is located within the coastal zone, please consult Permit Sonoma's Official Zoning Database or call the Planner Phone.

How much does a permit cost?

Most vacation rental permits involving 5 bedrooms or less will require a zoning permit fee. Vacation rentals with more than 5 guest rooms require a use permit and have additional permit requirements and fees. In addition to the permit requirements, owners of vacation rentals must register with the Sonoma County Auditor’s Office to collect and pay transient occupancy taxes. Please call the Vacation Rentals cube at (707) 565-1932 for more information about the use permit process and to obtain the current application fees.

Is it an annual permit?

The zoning permit for vacation rentals of 5 bedrooms or less are a one-time permit, but will expire upon transfer of ownership or tenancy of the vacation rental property. New owners will need to apply for a new zoning permit if they intend to continue renting the home as a vacation rental. Use permits generally “run with the land” in perpetuity and do not expire upon transfer or sale. Property owners are required to collect and pay a transient occupancy tax to the County Auditor’s office on a quarterly basis.

Why doesn't this regulation apply at the coast?

The Vacation Rentals ordinance was adopted for Chapter 26 of the Sonoma County code which only applies to areas outside of the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction. An update of the Coastal zoning policies is underway and will address vacation rentals in the Coastal Zone.

Will I have to upgrade my septic?

If your vacation rental is for 5 guest rooms or less, you will not be required to upgrade your septic, but you must demonstrate and maintain a properly functioning system. Reduced guest room and overnight occupancy limits will apply if your septic has a conditional approval or an operating permit that limits the number of bedrooms. Generally, vacation rentals requiring a use permit (e.g. more than 5 guest rooms or requesting special events) must bring the septic system up to current standards. Property owners are cautioned to avoid occupancies that exceed the design capacity of septic system as these systems could be damaged beyond repair.

Can I rent a vacation rental for a wedding, party, or similar event?

In most cases, no. Weddings, parties with more people than the limit on the vacation rental, and any event with amplified sound are allowed only if a special permit has been issued specifically for those events. These events are never allowed in conjunction with a vacation rental in the residential zones, nor in the Land Intensive Agriculture (LIA) Zone. You may use the Permit History Lookup for the parcel you are considering renting to see if a special permit has been issued.

I have a problem with my neighbor’s vacation rental. What can I do?

Follow the procedure for submitting a complaint.

If you feel there is an emergency or a public safety issue, please contact the Sheriff’s Department for assistance.

Where can I get more information and application forms?

Please visit the main Permit Sonoma Vacation Rentals web page or call the Vacation Rentals cube at (707) 565-1932.

Note: Vacation Rental applications must be submitted in person. They are not accepted by mail.

Where do I sign up for Transient Occupancy Tax?

Please visit the Sonoma County Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector Office Transient Occupancy Tax web page.

I am selling my property or I no longer want to use my property as a vacation rental or hosted rental, what should I do?

Vacation Rental Zoning Permits and Hosted Rental Zoning Permits expire automatically upon the sale or transfer of a vacation rental or hosted rental property. Property owners who have sold their property should also let Permit Sonoma know as soon as possible in order to not be held liable for any vacation rental or hosted rental use of the property once it has been sold. This form should be completed and submitted in all cases where the home is no longer being used as a vacation rental or hosted rental.

Fill out the Affidavit of Cessation of Vacation Rental or Hosted Rental Use (PDF: 83 kB) and follow the instructions on the form for submission.

Contact Information

Business Hours
Monday – Tuesday,
Thursday – Friday
8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Wednesday
10:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Holiday Closure Calendar

Contact us by Phone
Address
Permit Sonoma
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.465225, -122.723293

More Resources

Sonoma County Transient Occupancy Tax
Information and Forms

Permit History Lookup
Find out if an address has a Vacation Rental Permit, and find out the Property Manager's 24/7 phone number.

Zoning Information
Find out your property's zoning or if the Williamson Act Land Contract applies.

 

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