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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about vacation rentals and hosted rentals permitting in Sonoma County.

What is a vacation rental?

Vacation rentals are the rental of a private residence for periods of 30 days or less. Vacation rentals do not include Bed and Breakfast Inns or hosted rentals permitted in accordance with the Sonoma County Code for B&Bs and hosted rentals, or occasional home exchanges that are not otherwise subject to Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Vacation rentals must have a Certified Vacation Property Manager and meet Performance Standards to ensure compatibility with surrounding residential uses.

What is a hosted rental?

Hosted rentals are the rental of a single room or sleeping area within a single-family dwelling, where the property owner remains in residence. Hosted rentals do not include vacation rentals permitted in accordance with the Sonoma County Code for vacation rentals, or occasional home exchanges that are not otherwise subject to Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Hosted rentals must meet Performance Standards to ensure compatibility with surrounding residential uses.

Where are vacation rentals allowed?

Vacation rentals are allowed (with permit) in the following locations:

  • In homes in single-family residential zoning districts (AR and RR)
  • In existing single-family residences in the LC zoning district
  • Agricultural and resource zones including LEA, DA, and RRD (except for lands within an Agricultural Preserve that is subject to a Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act) Contract)

Vacation rentals are not allowed in the following locations:

  • Higher-density residential districts (R2, R3, PC)
  • Rural residential zoning (R1)
  • Lands within an Agricultural Preserve that is subject to a Land Conservation Act (Williamson Act) Contract
  • Land Intensive Agriculture (LIA) zoned properties
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (previously known as Second Dwelling Units)
  • Farm Family, Agricultural Employee, or Farmworker housing units
  • Non-habitable structures
  • Areas designated (e.g. the Exclusion (X) Combining District)
  • Areas within the burn zones of the 2017 Sonoma Complex Fire and the 2019 Kincade Fire

If you are unsure of what your zoning is, please consult Permit Sonoma's Official Zoning Database.


Where are hosted rentals allowed?

Hosted rentals are allowed (with a permit) in the following locations:

  • In homes in single-family residential zoning districts (AR, RR, and R1)
  • Agricultural and resource zones including DA, LEA, LIA, and RRD
  • The Exclusion (X) Combining District

Hosted rentals are not allowed in the following locations:

  • Higher-density residential districts (R2 and R3)
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (previously known as Second Dwelling Units)
  • Farm Family, Agricultural Employee, or Farmworker housing units
  • Non-habitable structures

If you are unsure of what your zoning is, please consult Permit Sonoma's Official Zoning Database.

When can I apply for permits to create a new vacation rental?

  • The Vacation Rental Moratorium ends May 9, 2023. Permit Sonoma will accept new vacation rental Zoning Permit applications beginning May 10, 2023.
  • A NEW Vacation Rental requires the following:
    • An approved Zoning Permit.
    • An issued Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Certificate.
    • An issued Vacation Rental License.*

* Note that Vacation Rental Licenses may not be issued until the license program goes into effect on June 16, 2023. Prospective Vacation Rental applicants may apply for their Zoning Permit and TOT Certificate, followed by a Vacation Rental License on June 16, 2023, when the license program is in effect.

When do the new Vacation Rental Ordinances changes go into effect?

  • Vacation Rental Licenses: Updates to Chapter 4, Article VIII of the County Code will establish a new Vacation Rental Business License program, which requires all vacation rentals to obtain a business license and comply with certain operational standards. This ordinance will be effective June 16, 2023.

  • Vacation Rental Caps and Exclusion Areas: The Board of Supervisors adopted new Vacation Rental cap areas of 5% or 10% in specific areas of the unincorporated county to prevent overconcentration of Vacation Rentals. The Board also prohibited all vacation rentals where new “X Combining Zones” were applied. These changes go into effect on May 24, 2023.

For more information, please review the Vacation Rental map viewer

You may also review Ordinance Number 6423 adopted by the Board of Supervisors on April 24, 2023.

Do existing Vacation Rental Zoning Standards apply to new vacation rentals?

How do the new Vacation Rental Ordinances affect my existing approved Vacation Rental Permit?

  • Existing Vacation Rental Operators are required to comply with the new Vacation Rental Licenses Ordinance including obtaining a license within 12 months of the Vacation Rental License Ordinance effective date. See details below about how the County will contact you to obtain a license.

  • The newly applied Vacation Rental Cap Zones and X Combining Zones do not affect currently permitted vacation rentals.

How do I obtain approval of a new Vacation Rental?

To operate a new vacation rental, an applicant must obtain the following:

  1. Vacation Rental Zoning Permit
  2. Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Certificate
  3. Vacation Rental License

How do I obtain approval for a new Vacation Rental Zoning Permit?

Permit Sonoma will start accepting Zoning Permit applications for new vacation rentals on May 10, 2023. For a Zoning Permit to be issued the property must meet vacation rental standards for septic, parking, and other standards in accordance with Sec. 26-28-160 of the Zoning Code. Please note, the zoning permit alone does not authorize the operation of a vacation rental.  See below for information on how to obtain a Vacation Rental License and a TOT registration number.\

How do I register for a TOT Certificate?

Additional questions can be emailed to the Revenue Accounting Division at TOT@sonoma-county.org

How do I obtain a Vacation Rental License?

  • Existing Vacation Rental Operators: All existing vacation rental operators will be notified via email when the program begins accepting applications from existing permitted operators. The notification letter will contain instructions on how to obtain your Vacation Rental License.

Once a Vacation Rental license is obtained, operators are required to comply with the new Vacation Rental Licenses Ordinance. Note, Sec. 4-204 B of the Vacation Rental Licenses Ordinance exempts existing legally operating vacation rentals and applicants who submitted a Vacation Rental Zoning Permit prior to June 16, 2023, from the following Vacant Rental License property ownership requirements:

  • “All property owners must be individuals”
  • “A property owner may only have an ownership interested in one licensed vacation rental at a time.”
  • New Vacation Rental Applicants: After a vacation rental zoning permit and a TOT registration ID have been obtained, applicants are required to file an application for and obtain a Vacation Rental License. Permit Sonoma will provide instructions on applying for a Vacation Rental License before the new Vacation Rental License Ordinance goes into effect.

I want to apply for a vacation rental but I’m in a cap area, can I still apply?

If you are in a cap area and would like to determine whether your area has the capacity to accept additional vacation rentals, please contact staff via VacationRentals@sonoma-county.org.  

You may check cap areas including current concentration levels using the Vacation Rental Map Viewer: For more information, please review the Vacation Rental map viewer.

If my area is already over capacity, you I apply to be put on a waitlist?

Permit Sonoma will maintain a wait list for each individual cap area. Please contact staff via VacationRentals@sonoma-county.org.  

You may check cap areas including current concentration levels using the Vacation Rental Map Viewer: For more information, please review the Vacation Rental map viewer.

How much does a permit cost?

Please visit the Vacation Rental Fees page for more information. In addition to the permit requirements, owners of vacation rentals must register with the Sonoma County Auditor’s Office to collect and pay transient occupancy taxes. Please call the Vacation Rentals cube at (707) 565-1932 for more information about the use permit process and to obtain the current application fees.


Why doesn't this regulation apply at the coast?

The Vacation Rentals ordinance was adopted for Chapter 26 of the Sonoma County code which only applies to areas outside of the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction. However, the owners of Coastal Zone vacation rentals must register to pay Transient Occupancy Tax. An update of the Coastal zoning policies is underway and will address vacation rentals in the Coastal Zone.

Can I rent a vacation rental for a wedding, party, or similar event?

In most cases, no. Weddings, parties with more people than the limit on the vacation rental, and any event with amplified sound are allowed only if a special permit has been issued specifically for those events. These events are never allowed in conjunction with a vacation rental in the residential zones, nor in the Land Intensive Agriculture (LIA) Zone. You may use the Permit History Lookup for the parcel you are considering renting to see if a special permit has been issued.

I have a problem with my neighbor’s vacation rental. What can I do?

Follow the procedure for submitting a complaint.

If you feel there is an emergency or a public safety issue, please contact the Sheriff’s Department for assistance.


Where can I get more information and application forms?

Please visit the main Permit Sonoma Vacation Rentals web page or call the Vacation Rentals cube at (707) 565-1932.


Where do I sign up for Transient Occupancy Tax?

Please visit the Sonoma County Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector Office Transient Occupancy Tax web page.

I received a violation notice for my vacation rental or hosted rental. What do I do to correct the violation?

Follow the instructions provided in the notice and on Code Enforcement's Vacation Rental Violation page. Generally, you have two options to correct the violation: Obtain a permit and pay penalty fees or cease operations.

I am selling my property or I no longer want to use my property as a vacation rental or hosted rental, what should I do?

Vacation Rental Zoning Permits and Hosted Rental Zoning Permits expire automatically upon the sale or transfer of a vacation rental or hosted rental property. Property owners who have sold their property should also let Permit Sonoma know as soon as possible in order to not be held liable for any vacation rental or hosted rental use of the property once it has been sold. This form should be completed and submitted in all cases where the home is no longer being used as a vacation rental or hosted rental.

Fill out the PJR-145 Affidavit of Cessation of Vacation Rental or Hosted Rental Use (PDF) and follow the instructions on the form for submission.