Definitions

These are generally accepted definitions of terms you'll come across when discussing vacation rentals.  Please refer to local laws for the legal definition of the terms in your locality, which may be different from the definitions below.
  • Vacation Rental:  A home, condo, apartment or similar dwelling that is rented to tourists and business travelers for periods of less than 30 days, for at least a portion of each year.  Abbreviations:  VR, VRD
  • Vacation Rental Dwelling:   A Vacation Rental.   Abbreviation:  VRD
  • Short Term Rental:  A Vacation Rental.  Related terms:  Short Term Vacation Rental.  Abbreviations:  STR, STVR
  • Hosted vs Unhosted Short Term Rental:  
    • "Hosted" short term rentals are those where the host lives in the same dwelling or at least in the same building.  They are in the gray area between regular VRs and B&B's.
    • "Unhosted" short term rentals are those were the owner lives in some other part of town or outside of the community.  The host is not a significant factor for the rental guest.
  • Transient Vacation Rental:   Same thing.  Abbreviation:  TVR   For some the "transient" aspect is denoting a perceived problem.
  • Long Term Rental:  Dwellings that are rented to community residents for periods of 30 days or more.  These are traditional rentals, and typically they are leased for periods of a year at a time.
  • Second Home:  A home other than the primary residence of an owner.  The Second Home may be used only by the owner, or may be rented out on a long term or short term basis.  Often people staying at 2nd homes or large gatherings at 2nd homes are mistaken for activity at vacation rentals.
  • "Illegal" Vacation Rental:  This can mean a variety of different things.  A VR can be called illegal ...
    1. If it operates completely on the sly in order to avoid complying with local regulations and taxes.  In some cases it may be because the owner is dishonest.  In others it may be in protest of unreasonable regulations, or because there is no way to comply, or because the requirements are unclear or have not been adequately publicized.
    2. If it is in compliance with all licenses or permits, but is out of compliance with tax regulations.
    3. If it is fully compliant with all regulations and tax laws, but someone feels that it shouldn't be allowed to operate.
    4. If there are no local laws that specifically regulate vacation rentals.
    5. The term "illegal" vacation rental is legitimately used to described unregistered vacation rentals in communities that require registration.   Most other uses of the term are misleading and are made by people who simply don't want vacation rentals near their homes.
  • Accessory Use:  A concept that designates real property as having primary and secondary uses.   Often interpreted in terms of how much time a property is used for different purposes, but it has a multitude of possible interpretations, and no single legal meaning. Examples:
    • For an office building with a parking garage, the office use is the primary use, and the designation of areas for parking is a secondary (accessory) use.  The secondary use is necessary to support the primary use, and you would never apply a time-based definition of accessory use, saying that the parking garage can only be used 30 days per year.
    • For someone making deserts for resale in a licensed and inspected home kitchen, the usage of the building as a home is the primary use, and the preparation of food for commercial purposes is a secondary (accessory) use.  And you would not interpret accessory use as requiring a time restriction, limiting someone to only cook commercially for less than 2 hours per day because the family uses the same kitchen for only 2 hours per day.
    • Some opponents to VRs would argue if your family owns a 2nd home, and rents it out part time as a vacation rental, the usage of the 2nd home by the family is the primary use, and therefore usage of the home as a vacation rental should be restricted to insure that it doesn't get used by guests as often as it is used by the family.
    • Others would point out that for a VR that is rented 200 days per year, the usage as a VR is the primary use, and usage by the owners is the secondary use, IF accessory use is only being looked at in terms of how much time the property is used in each way.
    • And others would say that regardless of how much a home is used as a rental or by the owner, the owner controls the home, and rental use is an accessory use because it only happens with the permission of the owner.
  • Takings, or Takings Clause:  A legal tool used to address problems with the way VRs are regulated.
    • The 5th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution say that the government can not take your property or regulate your property in a manner that decreases its value, without compensating you.
    • Many states also have constitutional measures or laws that address this issue.  
    • This is relevant to VRs because regulations can decrease the ability of the VR to produce income, or retroactively prohibit the operation of the VR altogether.  
    • In both cases the regulation has taken value from the owner.  
    • In the case of unreasonable or inappropriate regulation, the threat of litigation based on a "takings clause" can be a valuable tool, especially if a group of owners work together on this strategy.
  • Rent By Owner:  Vacation Rental homes that are managed directly by the owners. Abbreviations:  RBO or VRBO
  • Vacation Rental Agency:  A property management business that advertises and rents out Vacation Rentals owned by more than one owner.  Abbreviations:  PM, RBM, RBPM
  • Vacation Rental Ban:  A regulation, ordinance or law that prohibits owners from operating Vacation Rentals.  Often the prohibition is enforced with threats to levy  severe daily fines.
  • Vacation Rental Regulation or Ordinance:  A regulation, ordinance or law that regulates VRs.
    • A well designed law recognizes the value of vacation rentals in the community, and the property rights of owners, and attempts to balance those values and rights with other community concerns and issues. 
    • A poorly designed law minimizes the value of VRs to the community, may ignore the property rights of owners, and is often written to address problems that are documented primarily by hearsay.
  • NIMBY:  Short for "not in my back yard".  Refers to attitudes by some that things should not change around them and that uniformity is better than diversity.  Most often used when someone wants to build a housing development, a clinic, a half-way house or some other facility near where they live.  NIMBY attitudes are often found among some people who wish to ban or heavily regulate VRs.
  • Host Community:  A community where a Vacation Rental is located.
  • Listing Site:  A web site that advertises vacation rentals.  There are many.  Some are free and some are very expensive.
  • Contact Person:  A person that regulators are directed to contact in the event of a problem at a vacation rental.
  • Guest:  A person who stays at a vacation rental.  Most guests are families or couples.
  • Sleeping Area:  A room or other space within a rental unit designed, intended for, or used for sleeping.  A calculation concerning the number of sleeping areas is often used by regulators to calculate the maximum capacity of a vacation rental. Tents, recreational vehicles and campsites are usually not considered to be valid sleeping areas.
  • Egress, Escape & Rescue Openings:  Windows that open to allow guests to exit the vacation rental unit in the event of a fire or another emergency.  Regulations often specify a maximum height from the floor, that the opening is larger than a minimum number of square feet, a minimum width and height, and that the window should be accessible to rescue people from the outside.
  • GFCI Outlet:  GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.  GFCI's are electrical outlets that are used near sinks, bathtubs and other areas where there is increased danger of electrical shock to humans.  Many rental ordinances require GFCI's in bathrooms, kitchens and exterior outlets, to protect rental occupants.

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