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Last updated: 5/16/19

Short-term rentals

Starting on on January 1, 2019, short-term rentals in Boston will need to register with the City of Boston.

If you're renting out your home for 28 days or less, you need to register it as a short-term rental. This includes apartments, individual rooms, and entire units.

Register online

In June 2018, a citywide ordinance established new guidelines and regulations for short-term rentals in Boston. Registration opened on January 1, 2019. We have information below on how this legislation will affect you and your neighborhood. 

We plan to incorporate the growth of the home-share industry into the City's work to create affordable housing for all residents. We want to preserve housing while allowing Bostonians to benefit from this new industry.  

CONTACT
ISD Housing Division
1010 Massachusetts Ave
Boston, MA, 02118

Tips before applying

Know your unit type

We have information on short-term rental unit types on this page. But, if you’re still struggling to understand which unit type fits your situation, check out the three statements below. The statement that best describes you will help you figure out what to apply for:

Limited share: "I plan to list part of my primary residence for rent. I will be present in the unit during each and every rental."

Home share: "I plan to list my primary residence for rent. I will not be present in the unit during some or all of the rental."

Owner-adjacent: "I plan to rent a full unit in the same two-or three- unit property as my primary residential unit."

Get your contact information together

If you are the owner-operator of a property, someone else can apply for you. But, they need to attach an authorization form signed by you and give us your contact information. We also need contact information for a local person who can respond to issues — in person — within two hours of being notified.

Keep in mind: units that fall under the "Sunset" provision of the ordinance should not register. These are units with leases for short-term rentals as of June 1, 2018, that are not otherwise eligible under the ordinance. The City has allowed them to continue to operate as short-term rentals until the lease ends or September 1, 2019, whichever date comes first.

check your eligibility

We describe unit eligibility criteria in detail in the eligibility criteria section of this page. We also developed a tool to help applicants and staff quickly check a unit's eligibility. We recommend that you use this eligibility tool before applying.

unit incorrect in our system?

We used available data to create a tool that will help you and our staff, but it's not absolute. You know the most about your own unit. If you think you fit the eligibility criteria, we encourage you to apply. Inspectional Services will follow up with you.

Please note: did your unit show as ineligible due to owner-occupancy criteria? When you submit your initial application, please include at least two of these items to show proof that the property is your primary residence:

  • Proof of residential exemption
  • Utility bill
  • Voter registration
  • Motor vehicle registration
  • Deed
  • Driver's license or state-issued identification

Short-term rental types

What is a short-term rental?

A short-term rental is the use of a residential unit for residential occupancy — for a period of fewer than 28 consecutive calendar days — for a fee.

LIMITED SHARE UNITS

Limited Share Units have a private bedroom or shared space in an owner-operator's primary residence. The owner would be present during the rental. The fee for this type of unit is $25 per year. Occupancy is limited to three guest bedrooms or six guests, whichever is fewer.

HOME SHARE UNITS

Home Share Units have a whole unit available for a short-term rental at the primary residence of an owner-operator. The fee is $200 per year. Occupancy is limited to five bedrooms or 10 guests, whichever is fewer.

OWNER-ADJACENT UNITS

Owner-Adjacent Units are within owner-occupied two- or three-family buildings. In this situation, the owner lists a single secondary unit as a short-term rental. The fee is $200 per year.

ADDITIONAL SPECIFICATIONS AND EXEMPTIONS:

Rental stays of 28 consecutive days or longer are not considered short-term rentals.

Units that have contracts with hospitals are not considered short-term rentals. Upon request from Inspectional Services, you must show that a contract exists between you and:

  • a health-care facility
  • government entity, or
  • nonprofit.

This contract must describe the legitimate use of the unit as a hospital stay.

Units used for furnished institutional or business stays are not considered short-term rentals. The minimum stay must be at least 10 days. Upon request from Inspectional Services, you must show that a contract exists with a corporate housing operator and an institution or business. This contract needs to describe the legitimate use of the unit as an executive suite or business stay.

Lodging houses and bed and breakfasts do not need to register with the City's short-term rental registry. However, if you plan on advertising your services on short-term rental host platforms:

  • A lodging house must advertise its current and valid license from the Licensing Board.
  • A bed and breakfast must advertise its current and valid Certificate of Occupancy from Inspectional Services.

To be eligible a unit must...

Eligibility criteria

A unit that you want to use for a short-term rental must not be designated as:

  • below market rate or income restricted
  • subject to affordability covenants, or
  • subject to rental assistance under local, state, or federal law.

The unit must not be the subject of three or more violations — within a six-month period, starting January 1, 2019 — of any City ordinance or state law relating to:

  • the Short-term Rental ordinance itself
  • excessive noise
  • improper disposal of trash, or
  • disorderly conduct or other similar conduct (this includes violations of the state Sanitary, Building and Fire Code).

There also can’t be any outstanding violations on the unit of the types mentioned above.

The unit must not be located within a "Problem Property." It also can’t be located within a property owned by a Problem Property owner. These are defined in the City of Boston Code of Ordinances, Chapter 9-13.1 and Chapter 16-57.2.

If a property contains rental units aside from short-term rental units, the property must be renewed and up-to-date in the City's (long-term) Rental Registry. This is explained in the City of Boston Code of Ordinances, Chapter 9-1.3.

If at any point you violate one of the laws and codes mentioned here, your short-term rental license will be suspended. The suspension will last for as long as the violation exists.

A unit must not be subject to any law that prevents:

  • the leasing or subleasing of the unit, or
  • use of the unit as a short-term rental.

This includes all local, state, and federal laws.

Primary residence of Owner

Limited Share and Home Share units must be an owner-operator's primary residence. An Owner-Adjacent unit needs to be located within the same property as an owner-operator's primary residence.

To be considered a primary residence, an owner needs to live in the property for at least nine months out of a 12-month period. When requested, you must be able to demonstrate:

  • that you lived at the property for nine of the past 12 months, or
  • that you plan to live in the property for nine of the next 12 months.
Primary residence evidence

You will need to be able to provide Inspections Services with at least two of these items:

  • Owner-Adjacent units must be located in a two-family or three-family home.
  • You may register the unit you live in as a Home Share or Limited Share unit and one additional unit as an Owner-Adjacent unit.

A unit must be within a property classified as residential use. This excludes hotels, motels, executive suites, and other non-residential uses. A unit must also not be part of:

  • a congregate living complex
  • elderly housing
  • a group residence
  • a homeless shelter
  • an orphanage
  • a temporary dwelling structure, or
  • transitional housing.

Host responsibilities

You must include the registration number issued by Inspectional Services on any listing offering a unit as a short-term rental.

You must obtain a business certificate through the City Clerk's office. 

You must renew your short-term rental license each year. Licenses do not transfer with the sale of the unit.

You must post a sign inside the unit that lets occupants know the location of fire extinguishers, fire exits, and pull fire alarms.

You may only offer one whole unit at a time. In other words, if you have a home share and an owner-adjacent unit at your property, you cannot be away from the property and rent both at the same time.

You must notify abutters that a unit has been registered as a short-term rental unit. You need to do this within 30 days of being issued a short-term rental license. An abutter is defined as any residential dwelling within 300 feet of the short-term rental unit:

Check out Abutters tool