For locals of Great Barrington, you know how great your quaint Berkshire, Massachusetts town is. While that hasn’t changed over the years, what has changed is the rising popularity of visitors coming to Great Barrington as a weekend or longer getaway for people living in New York.
This, I’m sure, has you thinking about how lucrative real estate can be by buying a second property or turning your home into a short term rental. While we agree, it’s a great opportunity, especially in a booming town like Great Barrington, there are a few laws in place that you need to understand before you pop your place onto Airbnb or hand your keys over to a property manager.
Before you dive elbow deep into the research process yourself, we’ve simplified the short term rental laws for Great Barrington to highlight the most important information you need to know. Keep in mind, the town of Great Barrington is currently revisiting these laws with their planning board. That means the short term rental regulations that are in place today might change minimally or even drastically in the future. Some of the changes might be zoning bylaws, while others could be general bylaws. The changes could be put in full effect as soon as the committee’s next meeting or in the annual town meeting.
To gather the most up-to-date information, we recommend you work hand-in-hand with a property management company that can help you over any hurdles and ensure you’re setting your home up as a successful vacation rental property.
What exactly is a short term rental from a legal standpoint in Great Barrington?
If you’re renting out an area of your primary residence that you live in full-time, a guest cannot say in the property for more than 30 consecutive days.
If you’re renting out an entire property as a second homeowner, a guest is allowed more of a long term rental and cannot be rented for more than 90 days by the same guest.
I’d like to buy a property for short term rentals in Berkshire County. What should I do first?
Before you buy any property or start converting your own home, be sure to do your research! You should research what type of property you’d like to buy, the location and zoning of the property, your overall budget, how much you should charge renters, and your expected cost vs. income.
The quickest and most straightforward way to understand all of this and get the answers based on your specific needs is to reach out to a property manager.
What if the property is in an HOA (Homeowner’s Association)?
Each Homeowner’s Association could have different rules and regulations for property owners to abide by. Before you buy a property or convert your home into a short term rental, reach out to the HOA to understand their rules.
Keep in mind that different residential zones most likely have different zoning bylaws. For example, short term rentals are not allowed in homes designated as affordable housing but are allowed in other zones.
A short term rental is also not allowed on any property with outstanding violations of building, fire, health codes, and/or town bylaws.
After receiving permission from your HOA, the next step is to get a rental license from the city.
What do I need to do to get my short term rental license?
To receive a license, you need to apply with the Selectboard using their application form. Upon approval of your application, you’ll be given a registration number. This number is what you’ll need to include on all of your listings, as proof that you’ve been properly registered by the city.
For the licensing process, you’ll need to include your name, the address or addresses of the rental properties, and all other owning members if you’re not the sole owner. Legally, yo u can hire a property manager to manage your rental, but your name must be on the application.
A license will not be issued for residences owned by corporations.
Will there be any inspections of the property?
Yes, you can expect an inspection from the Great Barrington Health Department, Fire Department, and/or the Building Inspector. When asked, you’re required to grant access to the city officials to conduct their safety inspections.
A key aspect of passing the property inspection is ensuring you have fully functional smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, and a properly maintained and charged multi-purpose fire extinguisher.
How do I determine what rates to charge my guests?
The simplest way to decide on your rates is to browse online booking platforms to see the price similar rental units in your area go for. This should be based on property size, occupancy, location, and amenities.
If you’d like extra assistance with this, a property manager is well-equipped to price your property for you.
Do I need to collect tax from my renters?
According to the Department of Revenue, renters pay a 6 percent local tax and a 5.7 percent state tax. You’re responsible for collecting and paying this tax on behalf of your renters.
Are there any restrictions on advertising my rentals?
While you’re free to advertise your property online, you cannot place any advertisement signs on the property itself.
Can my short term rental license be revoked?
Under a few circumstances, yes, your license can be revoked or blocked for renewal. If you do not comply with property inspections or continually fail your inspection, your license may not be renewed.
You may also receive a violation if you disregard any of the short term rental bylaws. If you receive +3 violations within a year period, the Selectboard members may decide to revoke your license. You’ll also be subject to fines.
What information do I need to state within my rental unit?
There’s a few particular things you need to have obviously placed within your rental unit:
● Rental street address
● Instructions for recycling and waste disposal
● Local noise and leash ordinances
● Contact information for a locally available contact
Anything else my guests need to be aware of?
Under no circumstance can your tenants turn around and rent out any amount of the property to someone else.
Also, it’s important you make them aware that any event with loud music and/or tents is prohibited.
Who is responsible for guest compliance with short term rental city ordinances?
As the property owner, you are. Whether you’re present at the property or not, it is your responsibility to ensure that your guests are in compliance with the proposed bylaws.
For any additional questions related to vacation reach out to us at rental management or property permits,