As an Airbnb host, it’s important for you to understand your local laws. We provide a platform and marketplace, but we don’t provide legal advice. Even so, we want to share some info to help you understand laws and other rules that relate to short-term rentals in Boston. The information in this article isn’t exhaustive, but it should help you start your research on local laws. If you have questions, contact the Boston Licensing Board, Inspectional Services Department, or other city agencies directly, or consult a local lawyer or tax professional.
Anyone who hosts short-term stays (fewer than 28 consecutive nights) in Boston is required to register as a short-term rental operator with the city. The registration process consists of four steps, outlined below.
Step 1: Check your eligibility
You can check your eligibility and start the registration process on the city’s website. If your property is not eligible as a short-term rental, you can switch to long-term stays if you’d like to keep hosting. Listings that host only long-term stays (28+ consecutive nights) aren’t required to register as a short-term rental operator, but may be subject to the city’s long-term rental registry and other associated rules.
A few listing types are exempt from registering as short-term rentals:
- B&Bs: Do not need to register, but you must add your license number from the Certificate of Occupancy from Inspectional Services to your listing
- Boutique hotels and motels: Do not need to register, but you must add your license number from the Licensing Board to your listing
- Units that have contracts with hospitals
- Units used for furnished institutional or business stays (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 describing the legitimate use of the unit as an executive suite or business stay.
Step 2: Get a registration number
Aside from the exemptions above, short-term rental hosts in Boston need a registration number–this is required by the city. You can apply for one on the city’s website.
The website will ask you to pick a category type for your listing:
- Home Share Units: Entire primary home listings where the host is not present during the stay
- Limited Share: Shared/private rooms where the host is present during the stay
- Owner-Adjacent: A full unit in the same 2-3 unit property where the host also resides
In addition, to verify your primary residence, you’ll be asked to upload two documents of your choice. Simply take a photo of each document, save them to your desktop, and click Choose a file to attach each one to your application. Here’s a list of options:
- Proof of residential exemption
- Utility bill
- Voter registration
- Motor vehicle registration
- Driver's license or state-issued identification
If you’re a renter, you’ll also need to attach a letter of consent from your landlord.
Short-term rental registration costs $200 for Home Share Units and Owner Adjacent Units, and $25 for Limited Share Units and is good for one year.
After the city processes your application, you’ll receive a registration number via email which you’ll need to add to your listing on Airbnb. This process could take a few days.
Step 3: Get a business certificate
Once you receive your registration number, you can apply for your business certificate from the City Clerk’s Office via mail or in person. It takes 1-2 weeks to receive your certificate if you apply by mail; you’ll get your certificate immediately if you go in person. As long as you have a registration number, you can continue to host while you wait for your business certificate.
You’ll also need to get the signature on your application notarized, which can be done at the City Clerk’s Office. The business certificate costs $65 for Massachusetts residents and $100 for non-residents and is good for 4 years.
Note: It’s important you get your registration number (Step 2) before applying for the business license. The city will check for your registration number when they process your business certificate application.
Step 4: Neighbor notification
Once you register, you can use the city’s mailing tool to notify your neighbors that your listing is registered as a short-term rental. You’ll need to send notifications within 30 days of registering.
The Boston Zoning Code provides guidance for regulation of uses in Boston neighborhoods. Consult Article 2 of the Zoning Code to determine whether your listing might implicate any zoning definitions. Important definitions include "use," "accessory use," "dwelling," "lodging house," "boarding house," and "family."
The City of Boston excise and convention center taxes (together known as room occupancy taxes) may apply to your listing. Refer to the Massachusetts Room Occupancy Tax Guide for more details. In addition, the Massachusetts excise tax may also apply. Refer to Section 64G(3) of the State Tax Code.
As of July 1, 2019, Massachusetts state law requires certain intermediaries to collect and remit these taxes to the appropriate parties. As a result, Airbnb will collect and remit these taxes for short-term rental hosts in Boston. In addition, Massachusetts state law requires that you register with the State’s Department of Revenue–you can learn more here.
It's also important to understand and abide by other contracts or rules that bind you, such as leases, condo board or co-op rules, HOA rules, or rules established by tenant organizations. Please read your lease agreement and check with your landlord if applicable.
Our commitment to your community
We are committed to working with local officials to help them understand how Airbnb benefits our community. Where needed, we will continue to advocate for changes that will allow regular people to rent out their own homes.
Last updated: May 31, 2019