Companies like AirBnB, Vacasa, HomeAway, and VRBO provide travelers with the opportunity to feel like a local by offering short-term rentals of hosts’ homes and apartments.
In Pennsylvania there are no outright prohibitions on short-term leases. However, homeowners offering their properties for short term rental may have to contend with local zoning regulations. Several cases arising out of neighborhood complaints have already been heard by the Commonwealth Court. So far, that Court is finding that short-term AirBnB type rentals are not prohibited by regulations barring “lodges,” “bed & breakfasts,” and “tourist homes” because the owner is on-site for most of the year, and the properties in question are designed for use by one family.
The Courts’ reluctance to shoe-horn new uses into previously existing prohibited categories may lead to the development of new ordinances more directly regulating short-term rentals. Cities such as Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, have already drafted and enacted regulations governing short-term rentals through AirBnB type platforms. For example, in Los Angeles, individuals renting out their properties are subjected to a permitting process where violations of certain restrictions can lead to suspension, and revocation of licenses in certain circumstances. Similarly, in Austin, regulations have been implemented limiting to ten people the number of individuals who may rent a property at any given time.
The likelihood that similar restrictions and regulations will be promulgated in Pittsburgh and other cities in Pennsylvania in the near future will require both legal and practical analysis so that home owners may continue the practice of renting their properties on a short-term basis.