5 Tips for issuing Short Term Rental Permit Numbers

When municipalities seek to regulate short term rentals, often something that is overlooked is the permitting system.  In fact the permit number has significant value to Code Compliance departments that have to make sure everyone’s on the same level playing field.   Here are some suggestions on how to design permit numbers:

  • Always put the year somewhere in the permit number, best on the left hand side.  That way it will easily sort chronologically when you hit Sort A-Z on your spreadsheet.  By the way, the side benefit is you’ll instantly know whether the permit is expired if you have to renew every year.
  • Avoid having an entirely numeric permit number.  Sprinkle in some letters in the middle to avoid the unpleasant situation of AirBnB blocking your permit number from being dispalyed because AirBnB think’s its’ the host’s phone number and the host wants to transact outside of AirBnB to make some under-the-table income!  Phew that was a mouthful.  If you have to have it as a number because your permitting software doesn’t let you put letters, then try to avoid anything between 7- and 11-digits that would be mis-construed as a phone number.  You can read all about the host’s pain with 10-digit permit numbers in this blog!
  • Renewing permits, simply increment the year digits.   Wow, ingenious!    Are you in— genius?   OK enough Looney Tunes throwbacks.  That’s exactly how my accounting system works for invoicing and quotes.  Keep the customer number the same and 1-up the invoice number.  Add some trailing zeros to prevent roll-over.  For example, permit 17-0123-03 could be operator #123, renewing for 2017, and it’s their third year of renewal.  Again it helps keep track of who’s renewed, who’s “new”, who’s experienced without having to look it up, oops forgot you have to login, oh forgot my password oh, etc etc.  You don’t need any sophisticated tech here.
  • Add a suffix for property ownership or management change.  If the ownership or management of the property changes, you can tack on a suffix A,B,C on the end of the permit to signal to the compliance person that perhaps a re-inspection of the short term rental property is in order.
  • Mandate the permit number to be displayed in advertising.  You can change the language of your ordinance or by-laws to require a permit number displayed in all advertising, whether it’s bobsskicottage.com, or Bob’s ski cottage on AirBnB.com/12345.  That way it makes the compliance effort easy to cross-check the listing against the permitted list.  Now you shouldn’t expect 100% compliance here, but at least some percentage of the advertisements you don’t have to worry about anymore.

There you have it: 5 common sense suggestions on your permit number system to make your compliance efforts much easier.

Contact us if you have more questions about how to ensure compliance with short term rentals in your jurisdiction.