How to Airbnb My House San Diego

Navigating how to Airbnb your house in San Diego just got complicated. In 2022, the city of San Diego released the Short-term Residential Occupancy Ordinance (STRO), making Airbnb hosting much harder. There is a city-wide cap, limiting the allowable number of short-term rentals to 1% of the total housing stock, with the exception of Mission Beach. While there are several exemptions that could offer you some luck, trying to Airbnb a home in San Diego in 2023 will require resilience and patience from hopeful hosts. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to unlock your golden ticket to the short-term rental game.

Here is a comprehensive guide on how to Airbnb your house in San Diego and start making money as a short-term rental host.


Can I Airbnb My House in San Diego

Are you allowed to instantly list your house on Airbnb in San Diego and start raking in the cash flow? No. Slow down, young grasshopper.

After the 2022 short-term rental ordinance (STRO) was released, things changed. If you’re wondering if can I still Airbnb my house in San Diego, you can. However, you must attain the following three items:

       Active Transient Occupancy Tax Certificate (TOT)

       Rental Unit Business Tax Account Number (RUBT)

       San Diego Short-term Rental License (STRO)

You must acquire the first two items – TOT and RUBT – before being eligible to apply for your short-term rental license. Before going through the hard work of getting the TOT and RUBT, make sure that the specific short-term license that you need is available.

Do you mean there are different types of short-term rental licenses in San Diego? Yes. There are 4.

Short-term rental license options San Diego

How to Become an Airbnb Host in San Diego

Step 1: Apply for Active Transient Occupancy Tax Certificate (TOT)

The first step toward becoming an Airbnb host in San Diego is to get your Active Transient Occupancy Tax Certificate. For those that are unsure if they already applied for this, you can check all active TOT Certificates here. San Diego, like other cities, likes money! You must be set up to pay the proper taxes before you can Airbnb your house in San Diego, CA.

TOT Certificate more information:

TOT Certificate application:

Step 2: Register a Rental Unit Business Tax Account Number (RUBT)

You’re getting closer to qualifying for a short-term rental license in San Diego. The next step for hopeful Airbnb hosts is to register a Rental Unit Business Tax Account Number (RUBT) with the city. You can check on the status of active RUBT Numbers here.

RUBT more information:

RUBT registration:

Step 3: Apply for San Diego Short-term Rental License (STRO)

You cannot apply for a San Diego short-term rental license until you’ve completed steps 1 & 2. As of October 2022, hosts must apply for the proper licensure to operate short-term rentals in SD.

Depending on the short-term license tier you fall under, there may be a limited amount of licenses. Tier 4 is already sold out, which is crazy! There was a lottery setup and all licenses are currently taken, with a waitlist of other hopeful Airbnb hosts.

Before applying for a short-term rental license in San Diego, review this checklist. It will help you get prepared and hopefully approved!

STRO application:


Types of Short-term Rental Licenses in San Diego

STRO License for short-term rental airbnb in San Diego

San Diego offers 4 different license options for Airbnb hosts. Each license tier has different requirements. The new short-term rental law in 2022 states that a host may only obtain one license. Gone are the days when you can own multiple Airbnbs unless you use this workaround noted by the city. If you own multiple properties, you can have your spouse or business partner apply to be the host for the 2nd property.

You can determine which short-term rental license to apply for here. Now, let’s dive into the different STRO license options!

Tier One Short-term Rental License

Currently, there is an unlimited amount of these short-term rental licenses in San Diego (no cap). The city decided not to cap this tier of permits because they are the least common. This license allows you to Airbnb your house for 19 nights max per calendar year.

Don’t expect to be retired from the rental income from this license, unless you own a mansion in the hills of La Jolla. Only renting out your home on Airbnb or VRBO for 19 nights seems silly. Unless the occupants smell bad, then you may want them out soon! As a landlord, you are not required to live in/on the property to qualify for this short-term rental license.

  • Available Licenses: Unlimited
  • Pros: You don’t have to live there
  • Cons: 19 nights max

Tier Two Short-term Rental License

Tier two also has an unlimited amount of licenses… phew!

This allows hosts to rent their listings for as many days as they want! What’s the catch? As the owner, you also must live onsite and consider the home your primary residence. You can be away from the home for a maximum of 90 days per calendar year for your short-term rental to qualify. Duplexes count! For people that live in a single-family home and want to Airbnb the empty rooms, this is a perfect license to apply for. Homebuyers are using this Airbnb strategy when house hacking in California to offset some of their mortgage with rental income.

  • Available Licenses: Unlimited
  • Pros: Rent it out as many days as you’d like
  • Cons: You must live onsite as a primary residence

Tier Three Short-term Rental License

What if you don’t live onsite where your Airbnb property is? Then the tier three license is for you. Sadly, there’s a limited number of these short-term rental licenses in San Diego, capped at 1% of the total housing units. You must apply via lottery and let Jesus take the wheel. Airbnb and VRBO hosts can rent their property out for an unlimited number of days, however, there is a 2-night stay minimum (unless located in Mission Beach). Fortunately, there are no primary residency requirements for tier three.

  • Available Licenses: 2,046 (as of April 2023)
  • Pros: Rent it out as many days as you’d like + you don’t have to live onsite
  • Cons: Limited number of licenses + must apply via lottery + minimum 2-night stays only

How do you get accepted via this short-term rental license lottery? Well, you may feel like it’s a high school popularity contest. The city of SD considers several factors that influence its selections. Use these tips when applying for the lottery. Factors like code violations and proof of bookings are taken into consideration.

Tier Four Short-term Rental License

Tier four is the exact same as tier three but it’s only for the Mission Beach area of San Diego. All pros and cons apply; however, the supply is much higher. The number of licenses is capped at 30% of the total housing units in the Mission Beach Community Planning Area.

Alas… as of April 2023, there are zero tier four short-term rental licenses left and a waitlist of +180 hopeful vacation rental hosts.


Cost of Short-term Rental License in San Diego

short-term rental license San Diego cost

“You gotta spend money to make money.”

Of course, you must pay the city of San Diego to acquire a short-term rental license. The costs are listed above. Licenses will expire 2 years after being issued. If the cost is getting to you and you’d rather get rid of your Airbnb property, call us. We buy houses throughout San Diego from landlords who are tired of jumping through hoops set by the city.


Exemptions to Short-term Rental License in San Diego

There are several exemptions for needing a short-term rental license in San Diego. If your Airbnb rental listing is located outside of the San Diego city limits, different rules may apply.

‘Short-term’ is considered <30 days. If you rent out your unit to traveling nurses or college kids for more than 30 days, it’s not considered short-term. Therefore, you don’t need to follow the STRO. There are different rent increase limits that apply to long-term rentals versus short-term ones that you should consider.

Mission Beach, as noted before, gets favored by the city when it comes to Airbnb hosts and short-term rentals.


San Diego Short-term Rental Laws for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

Airbnb rules San Diego

Because of the new short-term rental law in San Diego from 2022, you cannot Airbnb an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) if you just built it. If the ADU was built prior to September 2017, there is hope. You must still apply for a license – not guaranteed of course. The ADU must also have been built with the proper permits to be considered.

Moral of the story – do not build a new ADU today and expect to get a short-term rental license in San Diego for it.


San Diego Vacation Rental Laws for Townhomes and Condos

short-term rental license San Diego

Yes! Well, it depends. The same short-term rental license rules apply to your condo or townhome. Complete the application and cross your fingers that you get the listen you need! However, also make sure to verify with your HOA (homeowners association) that you are allowed to list your place on Airbnb. There are tons of different HOAs in San Diego County, and many of them are restrictive.

PRO TIP: Get on the HOA board and make your own rules.


Units that Short-term Rental Regulations in San Diego Outlaw

Again, because of the new short-term rental laws in San Diego, nontraditional housing units and temporary structures are off the table. You cannot list any of these units on Airbnb:

  • RV or Camper
  • Affordability Housing
  • Student Housing
  • ADUs (built after 9/2017)
  • Tree Houses
  • Tents
  • Garages (converted without proper permits)
  • Shed
  • Commercial units and office space
  • Boats

No one mentioned basements though, right? Just kidding… we don’t have those here.

If you have one of these structures that sit next to your home, you can live in the ADU yourself and rent out your home as a short-term rental. This is easier for single homeowners versus large families.


Navigating San Diego Short-term Rental Laws

sell an inherited house San Diego

How about these new short-term rental laws after your potential Airbnb or VRBO listings? The limited number of licenses and lottery system for tiers 3 and 4 make this challenging if you don’t live onsite. Additionally, there’s a huge limitation to nontraditional structures, which put a ton of San Diego vacation rental hosts out of business.

When venturing into the land of short-term rentals, make sure you have the proper licenses and pay your taxes. You won’t make it far trying to Airbnb your house without following the new guidelines. If you’re in love with the idea of building an Airbnb empire, move to Mission Beach. It’s way easier there.

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