Vacation rental rules and regulations are in flux across the country and that’s particularly true in areas like Lake Tahoe - a popular destination known for its skiing in winter and beautiful beaches when the weather warms up.

The region’s tourism-based economy calls for a careful balance between the marketplace and the community. This is particularly complex in an area that straddles the California/Nevada border, reaching into five counties and two incorporated communities. The legislative intricacies surrounding Lake Tahoe's vacation rental industry have grown to an all-time high as one southern Lake Tahoe town recently passed a bill deciding to ban vacation rentals altogether!

While it’s always important to confirm the latest requirements in any location, with so many different stakeholders the Lake Tahoe area is particularly dynamic. Here’s a look at current Lake Tahoe vacation rental regulations in the most popular neighborhoods.

North Lake Tahoe

The North Lake Tahoe area includes:

  • Placer County, CA (including Alpine Meadows, Carnelian Bay, Kings Beach, Tahoe City)
  • Town of Truckee, CA
  • Washoe County, NV (including Incline Village, Crystal Bay,)

South Lake Tahoe governments have implemented a number of vacation rental requirements, but communities on the north shore haven’t followed suit. “Counties such as Placer and Washoe will continue to use existing nuisance laws to regulate the industry,” said the Reno Gazette Journal. “One key reason is that many local governments depend heavily on the tourist dollars that visitors bring in.”

That isn’t to say that local groups aren’t paying attention. Placer County, Nevada County, and the Town of Truckee are among the many partners who’ve formed the Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee, an initiative focused on the region’s housing issues—which includes short-term rentals.

Placer County, CA

Like several areas around Lake Tahoe, Placer County has outsourced some of the administrative work for short-term rentals to Host Compliance, a company that helps counties process and address complaints, identify illegal rental properties, and oversee active listings.

The key consideration in Placer County is to register for and remit the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), a tax collected on rentals up to 30 days in length. The tax rate varies depending on where the property is located. Each rental property must be registered within 30 days once you start renting or advertising it.

Learn more about the TOT by checking out the county’s TOT-related frequently asked questions.

Town of Truckee, CA

Like Placer County, the Town of Truckee has engaged Host Compliance to keep track of legal short-term rentals and collect appropriate taxes. To start your vacation rentals off on the right foot:

  • Registration: Each rental property needs to be registered with the town. If you’re a property manager with multiple properties, it’s important that you keep an up-to-date property list on file.
  • Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT): Short-term rentals of 30 days or less are subject to a TOT, which need to be remitted on a quarterly basis.

Learn more about compliance requirements for short-term rentals in Truckee.

Washoe County, NV

Registering for and collecting tax—the Transient Lodging Tax—is also key in Washoe County. A Transient Lodging Tax License can be obtained for each property, without cost, from the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) under the Finance Department. RSCVA renews these licenses on a four year cycle that starts in 2018 (i.e. 2018, 2022, 2026), so a license could be valid for up to four years depending on when you get it.

Get more information and applicable forms from the RSCVA Finance Department’s website. Or get more detailed information by reading the Transient Lodging Tax and Surcharge Regulations.

South Lake Tahoe

The South Lake Tahoe area includes:

  • Douglas County, NV (including Zephyr Cove, Round Hill Village, Skyland, Glenbrook)
  • El Dorado County, CA (including Lake Valley, Camp Richardson)
  • South Lake Tahoe, CA

The south side of Lake Tahoe has seen a lot of change to its vacation rental market, with more likely on the horizon. Generally speaking, here are a few specific areas you may want to check into:

  • Occupancy limits: For example, a property may be limited to two people per bedroom, plus four additional people per residence.
  • Vacation rental permits: Some areas issue permits specifically for short-term rentals.
  • Property inspection: As part of the permit application process, you may need to ensure your properties meet certain health or safety requirements, and you may need to have your property inspected by whatever counts as local governance.
  • Local contact: You or a designated local emergency contact - someone who’s within a short drive of the rental properties and available on a 24-hour basis - is typically responsible for ensuring the rental unit is compliant and resolve any complaints that may arise.

Douglas County, NV

Douglas County, NV, has recently contracted with Host Compliance to process complaints, register new rentals, and process tax collection forms and payments. The county has also updated their vacation rental ordinance: Rentals of 28 calendar days or less are currently allowed only in Tahoe Township, although there has been some discussion about extending the ordinance to other areas.

Here are some particular points to take note of:

  • Permits: While web registration is coming soon, at the moment a completed application form needs to be submitted by email or mail for each individual property. The property owner must sign the original application as well as each renewal, but a property manager can take on the responsibility for ongoing requirements. A new permit costs $400 while a renewal costs $250.
  • Property managers and other licenses: A property management company must be a Nevada Licensed State Realtor. You may or may not need to obtain a business license in addition to a vacation rental permit; the community development director or a designate can help determine what registrations you need.
  • Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT): The TOT must be paid regularly to the Douglas County Clerk-Treasurer's office.

For more information, read the detailed vacation rental ordinance or contact Douglas County directly.

El Dorado County, CA

South Lake Tahoe City, while within El Dorado County, follows its own vacation rental ordinance. See below for details.

When El Dorado County considered a new short-term rental ordinance in the summer of 2018, enforcement was raised as a more important consideration than caps on permits or the number of overnight guests. As such, the county removed the caps on both for short-term rentals (30 days or less) in unincorporated areas of El Dorado County. However, there are some limits in place: As in Douglas County, the number of overnight occupants is limited to two people per bedroom, plus four additional people per residence.

Here’s an overview of some of the key points you should be aware of:

  • Licensing: An owner can designate an agent or another local contact to apply for a vacation home rental permit, manage the property, or ensure it’s compliant with any requirements. But the permit itself will only be issued to the owner, who ultimately remains responsible. The permit may also serve as a county business license and registration to collect the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax and needs to be renewed annually.
  • Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT): You are responsible to collect and remit the TOT for El Dorado County unless the website you use collects it on your behalf. For example, Airbnb recently agreed to collect and submit the TOT on behalf of hosts within the county.
  • Building code requirements: Be sure to read the vacation home rentals ordinance (No. 5085) thoroughly as it also outlines safety requirements that a home must meet. These include requirements for an emergency exit or rescue exit in each room and a minimum ceiling height.

Get more information directly from the county on their vacation home rental information page.

South Lake Tahoe City, CA

South Lake Tahoe City has been a hot spot for the debate over vacation rentals, grabbing headlines first when it passed the strictest vacation rental ordinance in the Tahoe Basin, and again when it started issuing big fines to both guests and owners for infractions.

But more change is coming. Residents recently passed Measure T, a ballot initiative to shut down short-term rentals (30 days or less) outside the tourist core within the next three years. With more than 75 percent of the city’s licensed rentals currently located in residential areas, the impact on vacation rentals in this area is likely to be significant. (The San Francisco Chronicle notes that “Permanent residents could still rent to tourists for up to 30 days a year, while longer-term ‘ski leases’ for a month or more would not be affected.”)

For rental units in the tourist core, vacation rental permits are issued by the police department. Fees vary depending on the potential occupancy of the rental unit. Other points to note:

Get the latest information regarding vacation rental requirements in South Lake Tahoe City.

We hope these Lake Tahoe vacation rental regulation highlights help identify who to call, which questions to ask, and where you can turn for further information.

The information above is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you need legal advice, you should consult a licensed attorney in your area.