Sad News: City of Seattle no longer allowing waterfront vacation rentals

Recently we discovered that vacation rentals located on (or near) Puget Sound will no longer be permitted to operate.  New regulations are going into effect January 1, 2019. This is being blamed on zoning with the Shoreline Management Act that basically does not allow for “commercial lodging” near the water.  It appears as though homes on the waterfront being disallowed to be a vacation rental is an unintended consequence of the regulations labeling short term rentals as “commercial lodging” where before the regulation, short term vacation rentals were “unclassified”. The regulations are filled with irony and although the City of Seattle has bent over for some, they don’t appear to be budging for those of us with waterfront vacation homes.

We have been following the creation of the legislation since 2016 when Seattle’s City Council started tackling the issue of short term rentals (aka vacation rentals). Vacation rentals were being blamed for the lack of affordable housing and for reducing potential long term rentals. My husband and I attended council meetings to share our opinions to make sure our voices were heard. We have always been for regulations of short term rentals. Apartments should not be allowed to be short term rentals as they were created to be long-term rentals and condos (high density homes) should be limited – this is what was originally intended for the regulations….however, it does not appear these issues were addressed.

We have reached out to Homeaway/VRBO and AirBnb but have not had a real response from them. When we contacted the city a few months ago, they actually seemed unprepared to deal with this issue. It seems they have no idea how many homes this will impact. I reached out to our City Council a couple weeks ago and today I received a response from a Representative from ONE of our council members.

Thanks so much for reaching out to Councilmember O’Brien on this issue.  I am sorry for the complicated and confusing nature of our code and that your property is no longer eligible as a STR.  After looking into it a bit, my understanding is that this is due to the shoreline code – lodging activities are prohibited in Floating on-water residences, waterfront residences, and in specific shoreline environments.  This was not a policy choice about waterfront locations specifically but rather just making it explicit that defining short-term rentals as a lodging use (and not a residential use) means prohibiting STRs where lodging uses are prohibited by the shoreline code.   To modify this would require amending the shoreline code which typically requires working with and approval by the Department of Ecology.

Sorry to not have a more hopeful response for you.  Have you considered renting the property as a long-term rental?

The home will not become a long term rental as we want flexibility for when our kids are in town and Seattle’s current laws for long term rentals are too onerous.

We cannot express how much we enjoyed the many wonderful guests who stayed at the Bungalow. We’re so proud of our 67 five star reviews 🙂 and all we poured into the home to offer a comfortable stay for our guests. Our neighbors welcomed the Bungalow and often reserved it for their families. Our guests have had far less environmental impact on the sound than any long term renter or owner would simply based on the home not being occupied year round.

We do plan on reaching out to the Department of Ecology to see what our options are…if any. We just want to let you know that for now, the home is off the market as a vacation rental. We do hope we’re able to get this changed soon.

Stay tuned!