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Short-Term Rental Laws in Houston | What You Should Know!

Short-Term Rental Laws in Houston | What You Should Know!

Houston's vibrant culture, booming economy, and major events draw visitors year-round, making short-term rentals an undeniable attraction. However, it is important to navigate the intricate web of local regulations to take advantage of these opportunities. 

You will find everything you need to know about managing short-term rentals in Houston in this guide, including legalities, tax implications, zoning rules and community regulations. With the right information and tools you can turn your property into a profitable and compliant rental.

Discover Houston's Short-Term Rental Market

Houston's short-term rental market is thriving due to its diverse culture and significant economic activities. With attractions like Space Center Houston and a rich arts scene, the city draws both leisure and business travelers. Over 13,000 active listings on platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo reflect a strong demand, contributing to high occupancy rates and appealing investment returns. Despite regulatory challenges, Houston remains a lucrative destination in the real estate landscape of short-term rentals.

According to AirDNA, the market demand for short-term rentals in Houston is robust earning a market score of 81.

  • Annual revenue : $12.4K

  • Occupancy rate : 45%

  • Average daily rate : $183.7

  • Revenue per available rental (RevPAR) : $80.3

Defining Houston's short-term rentals

In Houston, STRs are defined as residential properties rented for periods of less than 30 days. These rentals are subject to a mixture of state, county and city regulations. 

The state of Texas including Houston is recognized as one of the best short-term rental markets offering opportunities for investment. As of January 2023, Houston saw an increase in short-term rental units with 10,384 active Airbnb rentals reflecting a 4.90% rise in supply 

Understanding these rules is crucial for anyone starting a short-term rental business in the city.

State and Local Tax Regulations

Permit requirements

In Houston, all short-term rental operators must obtain a short-term rental permit before listing properties like those on Airbnb. The permit application process involves submitting details about your property, including its location, type and maximum occupancy, to verify its safety and suitability for guest accommodation. Additionally, there is a permit fee that requires annual renewal to ensure continued compliance.

To acquire a short-term rental license in Houston, Texas, you  need to register with the city's administration and regulatory affairs department. The application should include the property owner's contact details, a copy of the property deed or lease agreement and proof of insurance.

Occupancy Limits

The city imposes restrictions on the number of occupants per rental to ensure safety and reduce neighborhood disruptions. These limits vary but generally restrict the number of guests per rental. While specific numbers may differ, a common approach is to limit occupancy based on the number of bedrooms plus additional guests. 

Advertising Regulations

All advertisements for your rental must include the permit number, ensuring that listings are compliant with local laws.

Zoning Laws and Property Use

Zoning laws in Houston play a critical role in determining where short-term rentals can legally operate. These laws are designed to maintain the character and safety of neighborhoods. 

Residential vs. Commercial

Some zones are strictly residential and may have stringent restrictions or outright bans on short-term rentals. It's important to check if your property is zoned for such use.

Special use permits

In zones where STRs are not outright permitted you might need a special use permit which requires approval from zoning authorities.

Navigating Zoning Laws

To effectively navigate these zoning laws, property owners should, 

  • Consult the Houston Planning Department

They provide maps and resources that identify zoning restrictions.

  • Seek Legal Advice

Consulting with a property lawyer can help clarify any ambiguities and ensure that you comply with local zoning laws.

Tax Obligations for Short-Term Rentals in Houston

Hotel occupancy tax

As an Airbnb host in Houston, you must collect a hotel occupancy tax from guests, totaling 17%, which covers both state and local taxes. Airbnb offers a service to automatically handle the collection and remittance of this tax, simplifying the process for hosts.

Texas sales tax

You might also need to collect an 8.25% sales tax on your rental income in Houston. It's advisable to consult with a tax professional to accurately assess your tax responsibilities and ensure you comply with state regulations.

Income Reporting

All income from STRs must be reported to the IRS. Utilizing a tax professional can ensure accurate reporting and maximization of deductible expenses. Keeping detailed records of rental periods and income is advised to streamline the tax filing process.

Legal Requirements for Operating an STR in Houston

Registration and permits

To legally operate an STR in Houston, hosts must register their property with the city. This includes obtaining a Short-Term Rental Permit and ensuring the property is zoned correctly for such use.

Safety and habitability standards

STRs must comply with local building and housing standards. This includes having functioning smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, clearly marked exits and safe electrical systems. Regular inspections may be required to maintain these standards.

Insurance Obligations

Hosts must also maintain adequate insurance coverage to protect against property damage, injuries and other liabilities. This typically involves acquiring specific short-term rental insurance policies that offer more extensive coverage than standard homeowners or renter's insurance.

Community Engagement and Operational Guidelines

Proactive community relations

Successful STR operation involves maintaining good relationships with the community. Hosts should provide neighbors with their contact information, inform them about the rental activity, and ensure guests are aware of and comply with local regulations.

Managing complaints

Hosts need to establish protocols for addressing complaints and violations effectively. Keeping records of such incidents and the responses to them is crucial for demonstrating compliance and accountability.

Market Insights and Best Practices for Houston STRs

Utilizing data for competitive advantage

Resources such as KeyData and AirDNA can provide valuable insights into market demand, pricing trends and occupancy rates, helping hosts optimize their offerings and pricing strategies.

Adhering to best practices

Ensuring compliance with regulations, personalizing guest experiences and employing dynamic pricing are all best practices that can enhance profitability and guest satisfaction.

Maximizing Success in Houston's Short-Term Rental Market

Operating a short-term rental in Houston demands a deep knowledge of local regulations, tax requirements and community norms. Staying up-to-date with these guidelines and remaining active within the community and market trends are essential for ensuring that your rental operations are both successful and compliant.

Utilizing a tool like Hostaway property management software can greatly simplify this process. Hostaway helps streamline the management of bookings, finances, and guest communications, making it easier to comply with local laws and maintain high service standards.

Successfully managing a short-term rental in Houston requires following these practices and employing proactive management strategies.

FAQs:

1. What are the permit requirements for a short-term rental in Houston?

To operate a short-term rental in Houston, hosts must obtain a permit from the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department. The application process requires providing property details such as location, type, and maximum occupancy, along with a permit fee that needs annual renewal.

2. What taxes apply to short-term rentals in Houston?

Houston hosts must collect a 17% hotel occupancy tax from guests, including state and local taxes. Additionally, an 8.25% Texas sales tax may apply to rental income. Airbnb can automate the collection and remittance of the hotel occupancy tax to simplify compliance for hosts.

3. How do zoning laws affect short-term rentals in Houston?

Zoning laws determine where short-term rentals can legally operate. Residential zones often have stringent restrictions or outright bans, while commercial and mixed-use zones may allow more flexibility. Hosts should consult the Houston Planning Department or seek legal advice to ensure compliance with zoning requirements.

4. What are the occupancy limits and advertising regulations for short-term rentals in Houston?

Houston limits the number of occupants per rental to ensure safety and minimize neighborhood disruptions. To demonstrate compliance with local laws, all advertisements for your rental must also include the permit number.

5. How can hosts ensure compliance and manage their properties effectively?

Property management software like Hostaway can greatly aid hosts in managing bookings, finances, and guest communications, ensuring compliance with local laws. Additionally, maintaining good relationships with the community and handling complaints effectively is crucial for successful operations.

Ready to find out how Hostaway can transform your business?

Hostaway is proud to support thousands of Property Managers and Airbnb Hosts Around the world. We take pride in being Top Ranked in Vacation Rental Software Review Sites: Capterra, G2, Software Advice, Trust Pilot, to name just a few! Check out our reviews and read the Hostaway Case Studies from real successful and growing Short-Term Rental Managers!