The City of San Diego Office of the City Treasurer provides this information as general guidance on the City’s Short-Term Residential Occupancy Ordinance. This information is provided as a public service and should not be construed or relied upon in any way as legal advice or a legal opinion. Although all efforts are taken to keep content timely and accurate, there may be a delay in correcting any errors brought to our attention. Please refer directly to the full text of the Ordinance.
1. What is Short-term Residential Occupancy (STRO)?
STRO means the occupancy of a dwelling unit or part thereof for less than one month. The STRO Ordinance defines a month as a period of consecutive days from the first calendar day of occupancy in any month to the same calendar day in the next month following or the last day of the next month following if no corresponding calendar day exists. For example, a check-in on Jan. 31 and check-out on Feb. 28 would be a month stay, whereas a check-in on Feb. 1 and check-out on Feb. 28 would not be a month.
3. What do I need to do to legally operate an STRO property?
If your property is located in the City of San Diego and is rented out for less than one month per guest stay, you must obtain a Transient Occupancy Tax Certificate and collect and remit Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). This applies to STRO properties of any kind (i.e. houses, condos, rooms, or spaces) rented directly by the owner/operator, by property management companies or via internet travel services.
If you are renting property for less than a month at a time in the City of San Diego and do not have a TOT Certificate, you are not in compliance with the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC); there are no exceptions.
Additionally, property owners who rent out all or a portion of their property for more than 6 days in a calendar year are responsible for remitting Rental Unit Business Tax to the City of San Diego. For questions regarding TOT and/or Rental Unit Business Tax, please visit the following web pages:
Effective May 1, 2023 a STRO license will be required to operate a STRO within the City of San Diego.
5. What types of units are prohibited as STRO units?
The following are prohibited for use as STRO:
- Income-restricted affordable housing units;
- Student housing, dormitories and Single-Room-Occupancy buildings;
- Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) permitted & built after the September 2017 prohibition; which are a specific type of "inlaw" or "granny flat" approved by the Development Services Department;
- Sleeping quarters in most shipping containers and outdoor areas, including tipis (teepees) and tree houses;
- Sleeping quarters in vans or recreational vehicles (RVs). RVs are not considered residential units;
- Non-residential areas within buildings, such as living/sleeping quarters added in garages without proper permits;
- Commercial office/retail or industrial (warehouse) spaces; and
- Boats or similar watercraft.
6. Can a Live/Work unit be used for STRO?
You can host short-term rentals in the residential portion of a live/work unit or "artist live/work unit," if you are a permanent resident of that unit and both live in AND host short-term rental guests exclusively in the "live" area of the unit. Short-term residential occupancy (e.g. sleeping, lounging/resting, or cooking areas) is NOT allowed in the "work" portion of the live/work or artist live/work unit. Additionally, you may not reside in the "work" area and use the "live" area of the live/work or artist live/work unit for STRO.
7. Can my commercial or industrial building be used for STRO?
No. An STRO may only be hosted in dwelling units permitted for residential use. For example, short-term rentals may not be held in an institutional, commercial or industrial building unless a specific portion of the building is authorized as a residential dwelling unit.
12. I plan to host short term rentals in my home/dwelling unit approximately 70 days per year. It is not my permanent residence. What STRO license tier should I get?
STRO of 21 to 89 days per year is not allowed under the STRO Ordinance. Although whole home STRO for an aggregate total of more than 20 days per year requires a Tier 3 or Tier 4 STRO license, hosts with a Tier 3 or Tier 4 license must rent a dwelling for a minimum of 90 days each year to maintain the license. Quarterly reports demonstrating utilization must be submitted to the City and those Tier 3 or Tier 4 hosts who do not utilize the dwelling unit for a minimum of 90 days per year will be at risk at having the license revoked.
However, if the dwelling unit is the host’s primary residence that they occupy for no less than 275 days per year, than a Tier 2 license could be obtained while still allowing 70 days of whole home STRO.
Reporting STRO Violations
2. What types of STRO violations can I report on Get It Done?
Citizens can submit complaints for licensing and operating violations specified in the STRO ordinance.
Operating Violations are incidents related to an occurance at an appropriately licensed rental. In Get It Done, residents can report the following operating issues:
- STRO Notice not visable or legible
- Excessive trash in private property
- Local contact not responding within one (1) hour of the complaint
- Local contact responded within one (1) hour but did not actively discourage or prevent the nuisance activity.
- Business operations at STRO (massage, surfing classes, wedding venue, etc.)
Other operating violations can still be reported as "Other".
Licensing violations are incidents related to the host's license itself. In Get It Done, residents can report the following licensing issues:
- Unathorized / No STRO license
- Non-compliant structure used for STRO (ADUs, JADUs, Companion Unit, Guest Quarters, etc.)
Other Licensing violations can still be reported as "Other". Please note that license requirements vary based on the tier of the license the host obtained.
3. How should I report a noise violation, or other "public nuisances" related to an STRO?
When experiencing an issue that is considered a "public nuisance", such as a noise complaint, please follow these steps:
- Notify the local contact of the STRO. The local contact information should be posted on the host signage on the exterior of the dwelling unit. This information can also be found in the Active STRO Licenses OpenData portal or the Active STRO License Map.
If the local contact does not reply within one (1) hour (or the reply is insufficient) then:
- Report the issue on Get It Done.
- Report the issue to the SDPD non-emergency line at (619) 531-2000 or (858) 484-3154.
A "public nuisance" is defined by California Civil Code Section 3479 as any condition caused, maintained or permitted to exist which constitutes a threat to the public's health, safety and welfare or which significantly obstructs, injures or interferes with the reasonable or free use of a property in a neighborhood, community or to any considerable number of persons.
License Tier Scenarios
1. What is the difference between home share and a whole home short-term residential occupancy?
Home share means the short-term residential occupancy occurs in either the host’s primary residence or a separate dwelling unit on the same premises as the host’s primary residence. This may include duplex, triplex, or quadplex properties as well as eligible accessory dwelling units when the host resides on-site.
Whole home means short-term residential occupancy of the host’s entire dwelling unit while the host is not physically present and residing in the dwelling unit.
4. If I were to rent my house to college students during the school year and plan to STRO my home during the summer months, what type of license should I apply for?
Tier 3 (outside Mission Beach) or Tier 4 (within Mission Beach) license depending on where your property is located, as the host does not reside onsite for at least 275 days per calendar year.
If the college student met the requirements of a host, the college student could apply as the host. In this case, a Tier 2 license would apply if the college student resided onsite at least 275 days per year. With a Tier 2 license, the STRO could be rented as a whole home STRO for up to 90 days per calendar year when the host does not reside onsite.
If the host was planning on operating an STRO for 20 days or less per year, a Tier 1 license would be applicable. A host does not need to reside onsite with a Tier 1 license.
1. When can I apply for an STRO license?
The license application period is open for Tier 1, 2, & 3 licenses. The application period for Tier 4 is closed. Apply for an STRO license to create your account and submit an STRO license application. It is recommended for citizens to sign up to receive STRO updates by entering your email address in the "Receive Email Updates" section on the top right side of this page.
2. Who can apply for an STRO license?
A host is defined as a natural person with the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and allow short-term residential occupancy. A host may include the owner or a lessee if the lease allows for subleasing for less than one month. A host may only hold one license at a time, and a host may not operate more than one dwelling unit for STRO at a time within the City of San Diego.
5. The Operator's name on my TOT Certificate is an LLC; however, per the STRO Ordinance, a Host cannot be an LLC. Do I need to change the Operator name on my TOT Certificate to match the hostname on my STRO application/license? If the names differ, how will I receive priority points for TOT payments I have remitted in the past?
No; Operator has a different definition than a Host. For purposes of TOT, an Operator is defined as the Person who is the proprietor of the Hotel, Recreational Vehicle Park, or Campground, whether in the capacity of owner, lessee, sublessee, mortgagee in possession, licensee, or any other capacity. “Operator” includes a managing agent, a resident manager, or a resident agent, of any type or character other than an employee without management responsibility. ( SDMC §35.0102).
For purposes of STRO, a Host is defined as a natural person with the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and allow short-term residential occupancy. ( SDMC §510.0102) A Host and Operator may be the same but are not required to be under the TOT or STRO requirements.
Under the TOT requirements, an Operator is required to maintain their records; this includes records of TOT remittance to the City. During the STRO license application process, Hosts/applicants will be required to upload these records to support the issuance of priority points for TOT past payments – only the Operator would have these records. Additionally, all Hosts/applicants will be required to certify under penalty of perjury that the information included in their STRO license application is accurate.
7. I am a property manager that manages multiple STROs in the City of San Diego. Can I be the host of them all, or how would they need to be licensed?
No, a host may only hold one license at a time and may not operate more than one dwelling unit for short-term residential occupancy at a time within the City of San Diego. A host is defined as a natural person who has the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and to allow short-term residential occupancy. A host could be the property owner or a lessee with the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and allow subleasing for less than a month. Each dwelling unit used as an STRO requires its own license and its own host.
The property manager can be designated the local contact who shall be responsible for actively discouraging and preventing any nuisance activity at the premises. The local contact shall respond to a complainant in person or by telephone within one hour for all reported complaints and shall take action to resolve the matter.
8. If I own multiple dwelling units that I use as STROs, will one license be sufficient for all the properties, or does each dwelling unit require its own license?
No. One license will not be sufficient for all owned properties operated as an STRO. An STRO license is required for each dwelling unit used for short-term residential occupancy. If an owner has multiple dwelling units used as STROs, the owner will need to designate a lessee as a host who has the legal right to occupy the dwelling unit and to allow subleasing for less than a month. This lessee will have to apply to be the host of an STRO. The owner can be the designated local contact who shall be responsible for actively discouraging and preventing any nuisance activity at the premises. The local contact shall respond to a complainant in person or by telephone within one hour for all reported complaints and shall take action to resolve the matter.
10. What is the fee to obtain an STRO license?
Application and License fees were approved by the San Diego City Council in Oct. 2021 and are as follows:
Note that all fees are non-refundable.
12. If I am currently on the waitlist for a Tier 4 license, can I apply for a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license?
A host can only hold one license at a time. However, if a Tier 4 host is not selected in the lottery, they can reapply for a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license pending their business model changes and meets the requirements of the tier that they are applying for. A new application will need to be submitted, including payment of the Tier 1 or Tier 2 application and license fees. The Tier 4 application fee is non-refundable.
Host Operating Requirements
2. What do I need to post or provide to guests in my STRO dwelling unit?
Per the STRO Ordinance, Hosts are required to post or provide to guests the following documents:
- A notice that includes the TOT certificate number, STRO license number, contact information and telephone number for the host or local contact and for the City of San Diego Code Enforcement Division. The notice must be maintained in good condition and posted on the exterior of the dwelling unit in a location visible from the sidewalk or public right-of-way. The notice must be 8.5 x 11 inches and must be in all caps, black bold 20-piint font.
Note that Hosts received a notice that can be used via eamil at the time they received their license. In addition, Hosts can access a fillable Host Signage template.
- Guidance for guests to report human trafficking must be posted in a conspicuous location within the dwelling unit. Signage for Hosts to post can be found here.
- Good Neighbor Policy that advises all guest various information regarding requirements during their stay. A fillable Good Neighbor Policy can be found here.
3. Can I change the host on my STRO license?
No; STRO licenses are not transferrable. If the Host is no longer applicable, you should contact the STRO Administration program to cancel the license and the new Host must apply for the STRO license. Application and license fees are not refundable.