Short-Term Rentals

New Short-Term Rental Ordinance

On October 18, 2022 the Sierra County Board of Supervisors adopted a new zoning ordinance to regulate short-term rentals. Short-term rentals (STR) are residential units rented for 30 days or less, typically advertised as vacation rentals on sites like AirBnB and Vrbo.

With this new STR ordinance, a permit will now be required before an STR may be offered for rent, advertised, or used in this manner.  The ordinance is intended to preserve residential neighborhood character and address community concerns regarding nuisances caused by STR operations.  The ordinance establishes a new permit process, standards of operation, and enforcement provisions.  These provisions will take effect on January 1, 2023.

Note: the STR ordinance will be codified in Sierra County Code Title 15-Zoning, Chapter 10-Specific Land Use Requirements and Standards, Section 60-Short-Term Rentals. [SCC §15.10.060] To view or print the complete Ordinance no. 1117 with definitions, as adopted, please click hereShort-Term Rental Ordinance 1117


Application & Fee Schedule

Applications are available by clicking the link below:

SCHEDULE OF SIERRA COUNTY FEES & CHARGES
SHORT-TERM RENTAL FEE SCHEDULE
Initial Permit (Standard)$200 Base Fee - Planning
$65 Building Inspection Fee
$45.50 Environmental Health Fee
$35 Public Works Fee
Total: $345.50
Alternate Parking Plan Review (if applicable)$50 Evaluation Fee - Road Dept Fee
Renewal Fee of Initial Permit$100 Base Fee- Planning
$37.50 Building Inspection Fee
$45.50 Environmental Health Fee
Total: $183
Violation$500 maximum
Additional or Special Inspection1$65/hour ($37.50 minimum)
Complaint Investigative Fee$65/hour ($37.50 minimum)
This fee may be waived by the Planning Director for noted "Planning and/or Building Fees" and the Environmental Health Director for noted "Environmental Health Fees". 


Useful Information & Forms

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

  1. Why did Sierra County decide to start regulating STRs and requiring permits?  When was this decision made?  The Sierra County Planning Commission responded to concerns expressed by a variety of citizens that some short-term rentals were causing nuisances to the neighborhood and the community.  These nuisances were largely due to guests being unfamiliar with the challenges rural living (open fires, parking, noise, trash/bears, septic issues, etc.).   Another reason cited was that short-term rentals are perceived as contributing to the lack of affordable and workforce housing, thus affecting the community character.  The Planning Commission conducted five (5) public workshops, received numerous public comments, and developed a draft ordinance over the course of three (3) public hearings.  This ordinance was recommended to the Sierra County Board of Supervisors for approval in June 2022; and was formally adopting it into law on October 18, 2022.  The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2023.
  2. I currently operate an STR in Sierra County. Does this ordinance apply to me?  Yes.  You will need to apply for an administrative use permit with the Planning Department.  Please note that only one (1) STR is allowed on each legally created parcel in specific zoning districts and some districts prohibit STRs. Properties that qualify as an STR must be owned by the record owner/applicant as January 1, 2023.  If purchased after this date, the property must be owned for at least two (2) years.  
  3. I purchased a property in Sierra County after January 1, 2023. Is this property eligible for a STR permit?  No.  After January 1, 2023, the record owner of the property shall not operate a short-term rental unless they have owned it for a minimum of two (2) years following the recording date of transfer of ownership of the property in question.  The property must be owned for two (2) consecutive years before it is eligible as an STR in Sierra County.  Because of the need for long-term housing in our communities, Sierra County advocates for new property owners in the county to rent the property for more than 30-days during this two-year period prior to putting it on the market as a short-term rental. 
  4. What do I need to do to apply for a STR Permit?  You may submit a complete application demonstrating full compliance with the new regulations, pay a fee, pass an inspection, and an STR permit will be issued.  Permits are valid for up to three (3) years.  The permit also requires a Local Contact Person that can get to the property within 30 minutes.   Applications will be available by January 1, 2023 or sooner so please check back.
  5. I purchased a property in Sierra County after January 1, 2023.  Is this property now eligible for an STR Permit?  No.  After January 1, 2023, the new record owner of the property shall not operate a short-term rental until they have owned it for a minimum of two (2) years following the recording date of transfer of ownership of the property in question.  If you purchased a second home in Sierra County after January 1, 2023, we encourage you to consider renting it out month-to-month or longer, as least for the first two (2) years, before applying for an STR Permit.
  6. I am looking to buy an existing STR. Can I continue to run it as an STR?   It depends.  If you bought the existing STR prior to January 1, 2023, you will be “grandfathered” in under the new STR ordinance and may apply for an administrative use permit.  However, if you purchased the STR after this above date, you cannot operate an STR and must wait two (2) years prior to running it as a short-term rental.  You can rent the property out as long-term housing for 30 days or more.    
  7. What are the permitted zoning districts for STRs?  Short-term rentals are only authorized within the following zoning districts: Residential One Family Districts (R1); Commercial Residential (CR); Community Commercial (CC); Neighborhood Commercial (CN); Agricultural District (A-1), and General Forest (GF).  If your zoning district is not one of the following approved districts, short-term rentals are not permitted. For more information on your zoning, please call the Planning Department at 530-289-3251 or email the department at planning@sierracounty.ca.gov to inquire about your property’s zoning.
  8. What structures are permitted as an STR? Generally, an STR is a single-family residence or private home that is rented out on a “transient” basis (less than 30 days).  An exception allowed in the STR ordinance exists for “mixed occupancies” (Group R-3) in several commercial zones.  This mixed occupancy exists in a commercial building with a bonafide business operating downstairs that also has a legal, permitted residential apartment upstairs in the same building.  If all other provisions of the STR ordinance can be met, then the apartment may be listed in the application for an STR permit.  
  9. What structures are prohibited as a STR?  A number of buildings and/or structures prohibited as a short-term rental include caretaker houses or quarters, guest houses, accessory dwelling units (ADU), junior accessory dwelling units, tiny houses, camp sites, travel trailers, campers, motorhomes, fifth wheels, boats, tents, yurts, or like facilities; or any accessory structure, storage shed, barn, studio, utility structure, cargo container, or other like structure or unit.  A portion of a residential structure (i.e., a bedroom) is prohibited as an STR and only the residence in its entirety can be rented.  If the single-family residence has more than one (1) unit, such as a duplex and/or apartment complex, only one (1) unit is allowed as an STR, and the other units must be long-term housing.
  10. May I have more than one (1) STR on the same property? No.  If the legal parcel/property has more than one (1) dwelling or residential unit---such as a duplex and/or apartment complex, or multiple houses or cabins on the same parcel---only one (1) dwelling unit is allowed as an STR, and the other unit(s) may only be rented on a long-term basis (over 30 days), owner-occupied, or left vacant.
  11. I built an “accessory” dwelling in the back of the residence.  Can I use it as an STR?  No.  According to state law, accessory dwellings, also known as ADUs, bunkhouses, guest houses, or granny units cannot be used as a STR. The State of California passed regulations that ADUs should be used as long-term, affordable housing and not as transient housing as a short-term rental.    See California Government Code Section 65852.2(e)(4).  
  12. What type of properties are exempt from the new STR ordinance?  Sierra County has several hotel/motels, lodges, resorts, permitted bed & breakfast, timeshares, lodging facilities, and boarding/rooming houses that are advertised online as STRs, which are exempt from the STR ordinance.  These property types do not need to get an administrative use permit and are exempt under this ordinance.  Other exemptions include mobile home parks, organized camps, permitted campgrounds, and National Forest Service Recreational Tracts with summer cabins. The new ordinance excludes incorporated communities of the county, such as the City of Loyalton.  Please contact the City of Loyalton’s City Hall if you are looking for information to their policy on STRs at (530) 993-6750.
  1. What are the permit terms?  Short-term rental administrative use permits shall be limited to three (3) year terms. Property owners may seek a renewal of an administrative use permit for additional terms of three (3) years but shall be required to file a new application and provide an application fee for each renewal.  The renewed administrative use permit may include new or amended conditions of approval.
  2. Where can I obtain an administrative use permit application and how much are STR permits?  The STR administrative use permit is being developed per this new ordinance and will be posted by January 1, 2023 or sooner.   Fees are subject to approval by the Board of Supervisors and currently have not been set.   Please check back with the Planning Department about this application and its fee schedule.  For additional information, please contact planning@sierracounty.ca.gov
  3. What are the fees and requirements for STRs?  The applicant shall provide the Planning Department with a valid Transient Occupancy Tax certificate/letter issued by the County Treasurer-Tax Collector confirming that the short-term rental unit is registered in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) process and is in good standing.  A special inspection fee as required by the Board of Supervisors, in addition to the regular application fee, may be charged for any site inspection necessary to qualify the residence to be used as a rental.  These fees have not yet been set by the Board, which will be confirmed by January 1, 2023 or sooner.