City Regulations: 3 Things to Know Before You Rent or Exchange Your Home  By

City Regulations: 3 Things to Know Before You Rent or Exchange Your Home

Hosting a short- or long-term rental or a home exchange is a great way to meet other minds on the move and explore destinations worldwide. The first thing to consider when you start on this adventure is to know what rules to follow.  You will need to familiarize yourself with your city’s unique regulations.    

Because regulations can change often and are unique from city-to-city, you will need to be diligent to avoid potentially costly fines. The last thing you want is to be slapped with unexpected penalties! No need to fear – if you take some simple steps and stay informed,  both hosts and tenants can have a stress-free homestay, allowing you to focus on the things that matter:  your sabbatical, travel, or retreat.   

#1 Find your sources.

Conduct an internet search for your city’s urban development and housing website and contact them directly for rentals and exchange information.  

For example, Berlin’s official website lists their current rental regulations, including permit requirements for home swaps: 

In the United States, a helpful resource with links to several city websites is: 

For resources worldwide, Citylab and Airbnb offer information and links to specific cities and their regulations.  Remember to always check your sources for accuracy and defer to the official city websites or personnel whenever possible. When contacting government personnel by telephone, be sure to note the full name of the person(s) you speak with as well as their title and contact information. 

#2: Learn and stay informed about your city’s specific rules.

Know your city’s current rules and laws concerning home rentals and exchanges. For example, Berlin’s city regulations in 2014 were severely restrictive regarding short-term rentals, and permits were nearly impossible to obtain. These rules were revised in May 2018 when legislators passed a law permitting short-term rentals for Berliners. The new law removed a cap on the duration of rentals for primary homes, while secondary home rentals are limited to 90 days per year.    

The caveat of these new Berlin laws is that all homeowners who wish to rent out their entire home will be required to get a general permit, even for occasional short stays.  If the homeowner is renting out a portion of their primary home less than 50% of the size of their residence, they do not need a permit.   

#3 Know and understand your risks. 

Before you post a listing, understand that being unaware of your city’s current rules can possibly lead to costly fines.  Each city varies in its policies and enforcement of its rental regulations. Depending on the city,  these fines can range from as little as a warning with a minimal fee to potentially thousands of dollars in penalties.   

Knowledge is your friend and partner. With a little bit of research and good judgment, you’ll be ready to start your adventure with peace of mind. 

Please note: This article does not constitute legal advice. Laws can be complicated. You are responsible to do your research, plan accordingly, and consult city officials. Seeking the advice of a lawyer is recommended. 

 Related: Live and Learn: My Airbnb Experience


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