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Short-Term Dwelling and Vacation Rental Licensing
Indian Peaks landscape.

The Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting office at 2045 13th St., Boulder is open to the public on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments are available on Tuesday but are not required. Schedule an appointment.

Short-Term Dwelling and Vacation Rental Licensing

Licensing

A local license issued by Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting is required to operate any Short-Term or Vacation Rental in unincorporated Boulder County. A Short-Term or Vacation Rental (such as VRBO or Airbnb) is a rental that is offered to a single booking party for a rental duration of fewer than 30 days at a time. Boulder County does not issue licenses for the incorporated cities and towns (e.g., Boulder, Nederland, Longmont) located in Boulder County. Find out which rental types may be permitted on your property and which type may be right for you.

There are two types of licenses:

  1. Short-Term Rental License: A Dwelling Unit offering transient lodging accommodations to a single booking party at a time within that dwelling unit for a rental duration of fewer than 30 days. A Short-Term Rental is the primary residence—the dwelling unit in which a person resides for more than six (6) months out of the year—of an owner or tenant and generally rented while the owner or tenant is residing and present at the property. There is an exception of up to 45 nights per year where the entire Dwelling Unit may be rented while the owner or tenant is not present.
      • Short-Term Rentals are allowed in subdivisions and all zone districts.
      • Historic Accessory Dwelling Units are the only type of Accessory Dwelling Unit eligible for this use.
  2. Vacation Rental License: A single-family Dwelling Unit offering transient lodging accommodations to a single booking party at a time within that dwelling unit for a rental duration of fewer than 30 days where the entire dwelling unit is solely occupied by the rental party during the duration of the rental period.
      • Vacation Rentals are limited to the Forestry (F) and Mountain Institutional (MI) zone districts, which are mostly located in the mountainous areas of the county.
      • Vacation Rentals are allowed in subdivisions in the Upper St. Vrain Census County Division (CCD) but are prohibited in subdivisions in the Bald Mountain CCD.
      • The number of Vacation Rental Licenses are limited based on three geographic areas of the county:
        • Upper St. Vrain CCD: 194 Licenses
        • Bald Mountain CCD: 83 Licenses
        • Plains CCD: Vacation Rentals are not allowed in the Plains
APPLY FOR A SHORT-TERM OR VACATION RENTAL LICENSE

Short Term Vacation Rental Cap Areas Map

Application and Application Checklists

Application checklists to review as you prepare the materials you will need for the online application:

Fees

  • Short-Term Rental License: $350 for initial license; $250 renewal with no confirmed license violations or new unpermitted work during the previous 2-year licensing term.
  • Vacation Rental License: $500 for initial license; $300 renewal with no confirmed license violations or new unpermitted work during the previous 2-year licensing term.

Boulder County Short-Term Dwelling Rental Licensing Regulations

  • Vacation Rentals (Article 4-507.E of the Boulder County Land Use Code—Land Use Code is being updated with changes)
  • Short-Term Rentals (Article 4-516.Z of the Boulder County Land Use Code—Land Use Code is being updated with changes)
  • View the Text Amendments to the Land Use Code, effective March 5, 2024
  • Licensing Ordinance No. 2023-02

Guidelines For Rental Properties

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

I received a notice that my neighbor has applied for a Short-Term or Vacation Rental License. Where can I find more information?

If you’d like to learn more about your neighbor’s application, you can enter the application number (e.g., STR-24-0123 or VR-24-0123) contained within the notice on the Boulder County Accela Citizen’s Access website to review the application materials. Once a license has been issued, you can use the license number (e.g., STR-24-0123 or VR-24-0123) to review the license at the Accela Citizen’s Access website.

Can I provide comments or otherwise participate in the review of a Short-Term or Vacation Rental in my neighborhood?

Community Planning & Permitting staff are available to answer questions about the licensing process and application but are unable to respond to concerns raised by immediately adjacent property owners regarding the use of the property as a Short Term or Vacation Rental. The recent Code updates permit Short-Term Rentals and Vacation Rentals as uses by right and the process for issuance of a license is an administrative review of the functional aspects of the property as spelled out in the licensing ordinance.

The Boulder County Land Use Code and Licensing Ordinance No. 2023-02 outline the requirements for Short-Term and Vacation Rentals. Once a completed application for a Short-Term or Vacation Rental is received, Community Planning & Permitting staff will provide a courtesy notice to immediately adjacent property owners. Staff will review the application and the proposed Licensed Premises for compliance with regulations related to zoning, parking, access (if applicable), septic, building safety, occupancy, etc. If an applicant meets the requirements in the Land Use Code and licensing ordinance, then a license may be issued.

What will building inspectors be looking for when they inspect the Short Term Rental or Vacation Rental?

Review the inspection checklist.

My property was approved for a Short-Term Rental before the new regulations were adopted. Do I need a license to stay in compliance?

Yes. All Short-Term or Vacation Rentals within unincorporated Boulder County must be licensed, regardless of a prior Limited Impact Special Use Review (LU), Limited Impact Special Use Review Waiver (LUW), or Special Use Review (SU).

Those who received a Primary Dwelling Short-Term Rental License prior to March 5, 2024, may continue to operate in accordance with that license and the requirements in Licensing Ordinance 2020-01 until that license expires or March 5, 2026, whichever comes first. Once a Primary Dwelling Short-Term Rental License expires, Licensees must convert to the new Short-Term Rental License to continue operation.

Those who received a land use approval for a Secondary Dwelling Short-Term Rental License or a Vacation Rental License may continue to operate in accordance with the conditions of approval listed in their Determination Letter (for LUWs) or Board of County Commissioner’s Resolution (for LU and SU). You must also abide by the life and safety requirements (e.g., requirements for fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.) in Licensing Ordinance 2023-02. When applying to renew your license with a previous approval, the LUW, LU, or SU docket number (e.g., SU-24-0123, LU-24-0123) must be provided.

More information regarding previous approvals:

What type of Wildfire Partners Mitigation is required for my property?

The requirements for Wildfire Partners Assessment or Certification were changed in Licensing Ordinance 2023-02 for those properties in West Boulder County (Wildfire Zone 1).

  • The applicant must demonstrate that the Wildfire Mitigation Team has completed a Wildfire Partners Assessment for the proposed Licensed Premises within the past five (5) years.
  • Upon the first licensing renewal (licenses are required to be renewed every two years), the Licensed Premises is Wildfire Partners Certified.
  • The Licensed Premises must be re-assessed and re-certified by Wildfire Partners every six (6) years.

Any assessment or certificate within the past 5 years will be accepted. You will not be asked to provide a copy as County staff will verify.

How to Apply for Wildfire Partners:

Please fill out an application here. Applications are reviewed weekly.

What to expect at the initial assessment:

A Wildfire Partners Mitigation Specialist conducts an individual, on-site, wildfire home assessment. If you are accepted into Wildfire Partners, you will actively participate in your comprehensive assessment with the Wildfire Mitigation Specialist. Together, you will examine areas on the exterior of your home vulnerable to wildfire risk as well as the trees and other vegetation in your defensible space zones. The Specialist will mark vegetation for removal according to Colorado State Forest Service guidelines and take notes and photos documenting your discussion and their analysis. You will also discuss emergency preparedness and planning specific to your needs. The assessment takes about 2 hours to complete. Assessments are conducted year-round weather permitting.

What is in the assessment report:

Wildfire Partners provides a customized report that identifies the weak links in your home’s defenses. A report detailing specific actions you should take to reduce your home’s vulnerability to wildfire will be emailed to you within ten days of your assessment. This report will include your comprehensive mitigation checklist, photos documenting action items, and additional information on wildfire mitigation and preparedness.

Financial award:

Homeowners that are in the Wildfire Partners Program may be eligible for a financial award for forestry mitigation.

More Information:

Contact Wildfire Partners directly for more information about mitigation requirements.

What are the Parking Requirements?

  • Short-Term Rentals:
    Two spaces, which must be on-site.
  • Vacation Rentals:
    Two spaces, or one space per every four approved occupants, whichever is fewer. All parking must be on-site.

What information am I required to post in my Short-Term or Vacation Rental Advertisement?

Section 6 of Licensing Ordinance 2023-02 requires individuals advertising Short-Term or Vacation Rentals to post the following information in their advertisement:

  • The local License number (e.g., STR-24-0123, VR-24-0123);
  • Whether the whole home or a private room in the home is being offered for rent;
  • The approved occupancy limit; and
  • The number of parking spaces available on-site.

Failure to post this information in the online application may result in enforcement action, which can include fines, requests to the Vacation Rental Service (e.g., Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) to remove the advertisement from the listing website, and suspension or revocation of the license.

My property is in a subdivision. Can I have a Short-Term or Vacation Rental?

It depends on the type of the rental and the parcel’s location in the unincorporated County.

  • Short-Term Rentals are allowed in subdivisions.
  • Vacation Rentals are allowed in subdivisions in the Upper St. Vrain CCD.
  • Vacation Rentals are not allowed in subdivisions in the Bald Mountain CCD.

If you are unsure about whether your property is eligible for a Vacation Rental, you can enter your address to determine your parcel’s eligibility. Townsites, such as Eldora, Allenspark, Raymond, or Riverside are not considered subdivided land for the purposes of these regulations and Vacation Rentals may be allowed in these areas. If you have any questions about subdivided land or your property’s eligibility, please contact planner@bouldercounty.gov or 303-441-3930.

How do I modify my license?

For modifications to existing licenses, including changes in property ownership, relevant application information regarding the proposed changes must be submitted for review to the Community Planning & Permitting Department. The proposal may be subject to the requirements under Section 4: Licensing Procedure of the Licensing Ordinance, up to and including re-application. To submit a modification request, or for questions, please contact Boulder County Licensing at strlicensing@bouldercounty.org or 303-441-3930.

Can a Short-Term or Vacation Rental License be transferred?

No, Short-Term or Vacation Rental Licenses cannot be transferred.

What is the limit on the number of Short-Term or Vacation Rental Licenses that I can have?

Individuals or legal entities associated with individuals (i.e., trusts) are limited to only one Short-Term Rental License and only one Vacation Rental License.

How long is my Short-Term or Vacation Rental License valid?

Once issued, Short-Term and Vacation Rental License are valid for two years.

How many people can stay overnight at a Short-Term or Vacation Rental?

Properties are limited to a maximum of eight individuals OR the occupancy limit of the permitted and approved on-site wastewater treatment system, whichever is fewer. Occupancy as permitted in the License is the total number of persons who may remain overnight at the Licensed Premises while the unit is offered for rental.

If you have questions about your Onsite Wastewater Treatment System you can review your property’s record at Boulder County Public Health’s SepticSmart website. If you have questions about your septic system, you can call 303-441-1564 or submit a question via the Ask a Planner form.

How do the Licensing Caps work?

There are no licensing caps for Short-Term Rental Licenses.

The number of Vacation Rental Licenses available varies depending on the area of the county. The county has been divided into three areas: Upper St. Vrain Census County Division (CCD), Bald Mountain CCD, and Plains CCD.

Short Term Vacation Rental Cap Areas Map

Vacation Rentals are not allowed in the Plains CCD.

There are 83 total licenses available in the Bald Mountain CCD.

There are 194 total licenses available in the Upper St. Vrain CCD.

When the total number of issued Vacation Rental licenses reaches the caps established in Section 7.B of Licensing Ordinance No. 2023-02 (referenced above), the Director of Community Planning & Permitting will create a waitlist for new licenses. Prospective applicants will be placed on the waitlist on a first come, first served basis.

When a license becomes available, the County will notify the first applicant on the waiting list. Upon notification, the applicant shall have thirty (30) days to begin the application submittal process. If the applicant does not respond or fails to begin the application submittal process by the deadline, the next person on the waitlist will be contacted and the original applicant will be removed from the waiting list.

Questions or Complaints

Before giving us a call, please check out the FAQs above.

If you have questions or complaints regarding the licensing process for Short-Term Dwelling Rentals, please contact Boulder County Licensing at strlicensing@bouldercounty.org or 303-441-3930.

For all questions related to zoning or enforcement please contact Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting at 303-441-3930 or use the Ask a Planner form.

Land Use Dockets Related to Short-Term and Vacation Rentals

This page does not contain information regarding the dockets associated with Land Use Code text amendments related to Short-Term and Vacation Rentals.

Licensed Short-Term Dwelling & Vacation Rentals in Unincorporated Boulder County

View Short-Term Dwelling & Vacation Rental Locations in Unincorporated Boulder County – Unincorporated Boulder County in a new window.

Contact Us

Community Planning & Permitting (formerly the Land Use Dept.)

Email: Ask a Planner Form
Main: 303-441-3930

Courthouse Annex Building

2045 13th St.
Boulder, CO 80302

Hours

8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday
Map and Directions

Mailing Address

Community Planning & Permitting
PO Box 471
Boulder, CO 80306
Community Planning & Permitting website

Background

Boulder County updated Land Use Code regulations related to Short-Term Dwelling and Vacation Rentals in 2021. The final text amendments were signed by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on January 5, 2021, and became effective February 7, 2021.

Licensing for short-term rentals began on March 1, 2021 and compliance and outreach began in March 2022. The required review was initiated in August 2022. Staff presented an initial review of land use applications for short-term rentals to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and Planning Commission on October 19, 2022. View the staff presentation and supporting documents.

According to the approval Resolution 2020-104, the efficacy of the Land Use Code amendment must be reviewed within two years of adoption, but no sooner than one year following full implementation. In accordance with this requirement, staff established criteria and metrics for review. The criteria include:

  • Existing short-term and vacation rental regulations in the Land Use Code meet the intent of policymakers, decision-makers have sufficient guidance to make decisions, and existing levels of review are appropriate;
  • Existing licensing requirements are appropriate, verifiable, and promote desired safety standards;
  • Proactive enforcement to achieve compliance with Land Use Code and licensing ordinance.

The metrics, which will help staff measure progress on achieving the above criteria, are both qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative metrics include a review of best practices, land use applications for short-term rentals, the licensing requirements, and enforcement efforts to date. Quantitative metrics include statistics about land use reviews, licenses issued, code compliance, and monitoring efforts supported by the county’s third-party vendor.


Determine which process and license is right for you

Staff are currently in the process of updating this webpage to implement the regulations passed by the Board of County Commissioners in January of 2024. This webpage will continue to be updated.

Licensing

A local license issued by Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting is required to operate any Short-Term Rental in unincorporated Boulder County. A Short-Term Rental (such as VRBO or Airbnb) is a rental that is offered to a single booking party for a rental duration of fewer than 30 days at a time. Boulder County does not issue licenses for the incorporated towns and cities (e.g., Boulder, Nederland) located in Boulder County.

Determine which process and license is right for you

There are two types of Short-Term Dwelling Rental Licenses depending on the type of rental property the owner wants to operate:

  1. A Short-Term Rental License is required for:
    • Primary Dwelling Short-Term Rental – A single-family dwelling unit offering lodging accommodations to a single booking party at a time within that dwelling unit for a rental duration of fewer than 30 days where the dwelling unit is the primary residence of the owner.
    • Secondary Dwelling Short-Term Rental – A single-family dwelling unit offering lodging accommodations to a single booking party at a time within that dwelling unit for a rental duration of fewer than 30 days where:
      • The dwelling unit is not the primary residence of the owner;
      • The dwelling unit is rented 60 days per year or less; and
      • The dwelling unit is rented with a two-night stay minimum.
  2. A Vacation Rental License is required for:
    • Vacation Rental* – A single-family dwelling unit offering lodging accommodations to a single booking party at a time within that dwelling unit for a rental duration of fewer than 30 days where:
      • The dwelling unit is not the primary residence of the owner; and
      • The dwelling unit is rented more than 60 days per year.

*Please note: Vacation Rentals are allowed in the F, A, RR, and MI zoning districts provided they are on unsubdivided land. In other words, Vacation Rentals are not allowed in subdivisions. You may Ask a Planner if you are unsure whether you are in a Subdivision. Vacation Rentals are also allowed in B, Cl, LI, and GI zoning districts.

Property owners who would like to have a Secondary Dwelling Short-Term Rental or a Vacation Rental will need to go through the appropriate review and approval process as required by and outlined in the Boulder County Land Use Code (Articles 4-507 and 4-516, see Resolution 2020-104) prior to being eligible to apply for a Short-Term Dwelling Rental License. Property owners who have received approval to run a Short-Term Rental prior to February 8, 2021 and are operating within the terms of that approval will not need to go through an additional land use review process but will still need to apply for a license.

Please use this tool to help determine which process and license is right for you.

Boulder County Short-Term Dwelling Rental Licensing Regulations

Fees

  • Short-Term Rental License (Primary and Secondary Dwelling Short-Term Rentals): $200.00 initially, $175.00 renewal
  • Vacation Rental License (Vacation Rentals): $300.00 initially, $275.00 renewal

A $50.00 discount is given on renewals when there are no confirmed violations during the License Period (of two years).

Application and Application Checklists

Application Checklists to review as you prepare the materials you will need for the online application:

Guidelines For Rental Properties