Business licensing in Los Angeles
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
This page is here to help give you a starting point to find out about some of the obligations that may apply to you if you decide to host Trips or Experiences on Airbnb. It’s for your information only and includes summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to official resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Trip or Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the law has not changed recently.
Could I be considered a business in the eyes of the law? What should I be thinking about if I am considered a business?
I’m hosting Experiences or a Trip in the City of Los Angeles, am I operating a “business?"
If you do the following for 7 days or more (or for a part of each day for 7 days or more) in a calendar year, then yes:
- Solicit business
- Perform work or provide services in Los Angeles
- Drive a motor vehicle on City streets for business purposes
If you plan to advertise or host just about any type of Experience or Trip in the City of Los Angeles for any part of 7 days this calendar year, then the City will probably consider you to be operating a business and require you to register as a business. For more information, see the Los Angeles Municipal Code (Article 1, Section 21.00(b)(i)).
If you host a Trip or Experience for less than 7 days, the City will probably still consider you to be operating a business (and require you to register as a business) if your Trip or Experience involves owning or leasing real property for business purposes (for example, whether you’re a home host or a trip host who rents a yoga studio to host your Experience).
Are there registration requirements for Los Angeles businesses?
Yes. If Los Angeles considers you to be operating a business, it will require you to register with the City.
How can I register as a business in Los Angeles?
If you meet the definition of a “business", you need to register as a business in Los Angeles. You’ll need to register within the same calendar year you first run your Experience or Trip within the City. However, we encourage you to register as soon as you run your first Experience or Trip within the City; businesses that register and receive their registration certificate within 2 months of starting their business are exempt from paying the first year of business tax.
Here are the steps to register. This list is by no means exhaustive, so please check out the City’s Start Your Business in L.A website, the Business Startup Organizer, and contact the City of Los Angeles or speak to a lawyer to make sure you’ve met all of the requirements.
Step 1: Choose your business structure. First, you’ll need to choose your preferred business structure: a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, or a Limited Liability Company. Go here to learn more about what these different types of business structures mean.
Sole Proprietorships are the simplest way to start a new business if you’re the only business owner and person responsible for your business’s assets and liabilities. Unlike the other business structures, Sole Proprietorships have less paperwork (you don’t need to file anything with the state), and there is no minimum tax imposed by the California Franchise Tax Board (other structures have to pay an annual minimum tax of $800).
Step 2: Choose your business name. You’ll also need to name your new business. You won’t need to fill out any additional forms if you plan to use your own name (such as “John Smith"); just fill in your own name on the city registration applications. Since Trip Hosts on Airbnb typically use their own name on their Listings, this option should generally work for Hosts.
If you don’t want to use your own legal name for your business, you must register a fictitious business name (FBN). To do this, first make sure that the name you want is available using the City’s FBN search. Then file your FBN Statement, along with a filing fee of $26 with the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk within 40 days of starting your business (or hosting your first Experience ). In addition you’ll need to advertise your business name in one of the newspapers listed here for four weeks within 30 days from filing the FBN statement.
Step 3: Choose your business location. To register with the City, you’ll need to include the address where you run your business (i.e., a business address, shared workspace, or at home). If you run a business out of your home and you live in a Residential area, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning requires you to use your home predominantly as a place to live, not as a place of business. This means:
- No more than one client visit or one client vehicle per hour and only from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. for business purposes
- No advertising can be added to the home
- You can’t physically change the home in a way that makes it non-residential
- No more than 1 employee who does not already live in the home can come to the home for business purposes, and
- The home business shouldn’t create hazards or nuisances like more car or pedestrian traffic than is usual for a home or apartment.
For more details, check out the Los Angeles Zoning Code (Section 12.05.16). You should also check with the City or speak to a lawyer before hosting a Trip or Experience in your home.
Step 4: Register with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy. You’ll need to register in the same calendar year you first run your Trip or Experience in the City. However, we encourage you to register as soon as you post or run your first Trip or Experience within the City; businesses that register and receive their registration certificate within 2 months of starting their business (or running their first Trip) are exempt from paying the first year of business tax.
You’ll need to provide the information from Steps 1-3 to register with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy for a Business Tax Registration Certificate. You’ll be asked to describe your business structure, business name, permits you may need for your business, and Business Activities (like a “Service").
No application fee: As of the date we posted this help article, you don’t need to pay a fee to register your business online.
Office of the Assessor: Based on the information you provide in your registration, the Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor, the agency that identifies all taxable property in the City, may ask you for more information (such as listing all your supplies, equipment and other property you use to run your Experience/Trips/business in a Form 571-L ). This is the form the Assessor will use to determine your business property tax.
As a small service business, you may have very little or no taxable business property. You should still file the Form 571-L if you receive a notice from the Assessor's office, because if you do not, you may get penalties or you may miss out on tax exemptions that could benefit you.
Step 5: Registration Renewal and Business Taxes. Registration must be renewed each year by January 1st. You’ll have to pay business taxes based on how much you actually earned from your business in the previous tax year according to this tax rate table.
Tip: A small business with $100,000 or less of taxable and nontaxable earnings qualifies for a Small Business Exemption as long as the business files a timely renewal. In addition, a new business that gets their Tax Registration Certificate from the City by the end of the second calendar month of the business start date doesn't have to pay the first year of business tax.
Example: Anne is a trip host who runs experiences one week per month where she brings her guests to her favorite restaurants and cocktail bars in Westwood. She runs her experiences alone, and makes about $1,000 per month, which helps her supplement her earnings as an artist.
Anne is required to register as a business in Los Angeles, and wants to do it within 2 months of when she first runs her experience on Airbnb so she can be benefit from the business tax break for her first year as a business. To do so, she:
- Picks a Sole Proprietorship structure;
- Decides to use her own legal name to register as a business (that’s how she lists her trip on Airbnb anyway);
- Picks her own home as her business address; and then
- Registers her business with the City online, for free.
So far, Anne hasn’t paid any registration fees to register her business. She’ll receive a temporary Business Tax Certificate once she completes her registration online.
Because she registered within 2 months of running her first experience, Anne won’t have to pay business taxes this year. As long as she continues to renew on time each year, she’ll likely qualify for the Small Business exemption and won’t have to pay business taxes.
Is there anything else I should be thinking about?
Yes. You should consider the following.Activities and licenses
Yes. Depending on the activities involved in your Trip or Experience, you may need to register, obtain licenses, or follow specific rules that apply to that activity. Our section on the various activity specific topics covers some of the typical activities, but that section is not exhaustive. You should always check with the City or speak to a lawyer to determine which permits and licenses may be required for the experiences you are offering.Employees
If you plan to hire employees as part of your business, you may also be required to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS.
Note: a sole proprietor without employees may use their Social Security Number instead of EIN. The IRS also provides other useful information on taxes that apply to small businesses.Tax and accounting
You should also check what tax and accounting rules apply to you, as you may need to pay personal income and sales tax in addition to business property tax. Also make sure you have the right insurance in place to cover all the activities you will be providing.
What resources are available to me to help me get set up as a business?
We encourage you to take advantage of the free resources provided by the City’s Start Your Business in L.A website and the Business Startup Organizer, as well as the SBA’s Small Business Start-Up Guide, Los Angeles Edition. The California Franchise Tax Board and the IRS also provide useful information on taxes that apply to small businesses.
Are there additional laws that apply to me as a result of my being a registered business?
Yes. Several consumer protection laws, like the Federal Trade Commission Act, California’s Unfair Competition Law and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, require you to truthfully describe your Trip or Experience in your Listing so your guests can make informed decisions. This means that:
- the information you provide to Guests must be accurate and not misleading,
- You accurately and completely describe in your Listing the main characteristics of your Trip or Experience, as well as what is included and any special terms and conditions (for example, my favorite local craft cocktail bar Experience includes the first round of drinks, but guests must pay for additional drinks out of pocket)
- you do not offer a service that you do not intend to provide
- Your price is accurate, and you do not List a Trip or Experience at one price and then charge an additional fee when your guests get there.
In sum, this means that you need to provide the services advertised in your Listing, within the advertised dates and times, at the advertised price. For more information, the FTC provides helpful guidance on truth-in-advertising, that we encourage you to review.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).
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