Short-Term Rental Guide
1. Understanding the basics
Short-term rental (STR) refers to the rental of any dwelling unit or bedroom as residential accommodation for a duration of less than 27 consecutive days. Short-term rentals are allowed within certain parameters, and there are rules and regulations you must follow to legally rent out your residence on a short-term basis. See Section 4.60 of the Brookline By-Laws. First you must determine if you meet the eligibility requirements.
Owners who rent short term need to register with the State Department of Revenue (DOR) to pay the tax. DOR will issue guidance shortly on how to sign up and pay the tax. Information available at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/room-occupancy-excise-tax or (800) 392-6089. Most hosting platforms will collect and handle the tax with the payment. The law also requires owners to notify their insurer and maintain liability insurance of not less than $1,000,000.
Are you eligible?
The operator of a short-term rental must meet ALL of the following criteria in order to be eligible:
a. The Short-Term Rental Unit cannot be subject to any local, state, or federal income-eligible or income-restricted program that is designated as below market rate housing.
b. The Short-Term Rental Unit shall not be subject to any outstanding building, sanitary, zoning, or fire code violations, orders of abatement, stop work orders, or other requirements, laws or regulations that prohibit the Operator from offering the residential unit as a Short-Term Rental.
c. The Short-Term Rental Unit shall not be in arrears regarding any municipal or state taxes, fines or fees. Short-Term Rentals, Short-Term Rental Operators, and Short-Term Rental Certificates of Registration are subject to Article 4.7 of the Town's General By-laws.
d. The accommodations offered must be compliant with all applicable state and local codes, including building codes, fire codes and health codes.
e. Occupancy (including long term renters on the property) is limited to the number of bedrooms multiplied by 2, up to a maximum of eight (8) guests provided, however, that any occupancy in excess of three (3) persons who are not within the second degree of kindred to the person conducting the Short-Term Rental must be in compliance with state and local law, regulations and code. In addition, a Short-Term Rental shall not operate in the same property as a lodging house as defined by law.
2. Understanding the Terms
A residential dwelling unit is a house or an apartment in which a single household resides. If you live in a multi-room house, that is one unit. If you live in an apartment, that is one unit.
The short-term rental operator is the person(s) operating a Short-Term Rental. An Operator must be the owner of the Short-Term Rental Unit.
"Primary Residence": Any property at which a resident resides for at least 183 days of the calendar year.
You are NOT eligible to register a short-term rental if the unit is subject to the Inclusionary Housing Program, designated as below market rate, or subject to income restrictions under any Town, State, or Federal law.
The residential short term rental unit must be registered with the Town’s inspection team. Registration is contingent upon successful inspection of the STR unit.
The dwelling unit or bedroom offered for STR must comply with State Building and Sanitary code requirements for occupancy. This includes ceiling height, adequate ventilation, room size and light requirements, life safety devices and egress from the dwelling unit and building, and other applicable codes.
For Tenants: The Short-Term Rental Ordinance does not override any lease or rental agreements, condominium bylaws, or any other regulations to which you may be subject as a tenant. Please read your lease carefully before submitting an application. The Town of Brookline does not enforce lease or other private agreements.
You must obtain written permission from the property owner and, if applicable, the condominium association. You will need to provide a copy of your lease or rental agreement. Note that Town staff may contact the owner(s) of the STR unit for verification.
* A short-term rental must comply with all the applicable provisions of the Town of Brookline Zoning ordinance, including but not limited to all conditions set forth in Zoning Ordinance Section 4.60 – Short-Term Rentals.
3. Getting Started
Submit a Short-Term Rental Registration Application online through the Select Board website, along with the requisite supporting documents.
- Local Contact Information. When registering, a Short-Term Rental Operator must provide their name, address, home telephone number, cell phone number, and email address, as well as such contact information for a secondary contact. Such contact information should identify at least one individual with corresponding contact information (including an active telephone number at which the person will be reachable 24 hours a day) who can respond in person within two hours of contact by a Town official to any issue or emergency that arises during a Short Term Rental.
- Written approval from condominium association and/or building owner.
- Floor plan of the dwelling unit indicating bedrooms to be offered for short-term rental. The plan may be sketched by hand but should be labelled, neat and legible.
- Pest control plan.
- Proof of the operator’s primary residence with either:
- Documented enrollment in Brookline residential tax exemption program, or
- Signed affidavit along with photo ID and current government or utility correspondence with the operator’s name and address issued. Additionally, Primary Residency must also be certified at the time of application and not less than once per calendar year thereafter by an affidavit in a form provided by the Town and signed by the Operator.
- Other documents listed in the application.
The fee to obtain a certificate of registration is $275.
Scheduling an Inspection
Once your application has been submitted, you will receive email notification and instructions for scheduling an inspection with the inspection team. A sample Inspection Checklist is available here.
The following information must be posted in owner-adjacent short-term rental units, and this information must be provided to all short-term renters:
- Instructions for disposal of waste per Brookline recycling & composting programs;
- Emergency exit diagram must be posted in each bedroom used as short-term rental and on all egresses from the dwelling unit;
- All short-term renters are subject to the Town of Brookline parking regulations. It is the responsibility of the STR operator to inform their guests of the parking regulations.
- Local contact information in the event of temporary absence of the owner or operator must be made available to renters;
- Certificate of Registration must be posted in the STR unit.
Certificate of Registration
Upon satisfactory inspection of the short-term rental, you will receive a Certificate of Registration. Upon receipt you may advertise and offer the unit for short- term rental.
The Certificate of Registration is valid for up to five (5) years, and will terminate upon change of unit ownership or change of operator. The Building Department will determine the length of the certificate and frequency of inspections.
An owner-adjacent short-term rental operator must keep accurate books and records of their business, and make them available to the inspection team upon request.
Code violations or any violations of the Short-Term Rental Ordinance will be subject to fines of up to $300/day.
Complaints about occupancy conditions or other violations regarding the short-term rental ordinance will be investigated by the inspection team.
Building Department Complaints: 617-730-2100
Health Department Complaints: 617-730-2300
Fire Department Complaints: 617-730-2272
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