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What are Short-Term Rentals?
On July 11, 2017 the Tuscaloosa City Council voted to amend the Zoning Ordinance to allow short-term rentals (Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc.) to operate legally within two Tourist Overlay Districts (TO Districts) in the City of Tuscaloosa. Sec. 24-5 of the City Ordinance defines the following items:
- Short Term Rental: "the transient use of any dwelling or any part of a dwelling for overnight occupancy".
- Transient: "A person(s) occupying a dwelling for less than thirty (30) days."
In order to use any part of a residence as a short-term rental location, the City of Tuscaloosa requires that owners meet certain criteria prior to commencing short term leasing. The remainder of this site lists and links all the information that is required to process and apply for a Short Term Rental permit. The following links direct to the full list of regulations and conditions within the city municipal code. We recommend that you review this information prior to filling any applications:
Can I have a Short-Term Rental?
The City Ordinance designates three (3) areas that are eligible to operate a short-term rental within. Your property is conditioned to apply for a STR permit based on which identified group it belongs to from what's listed below:
- The TO Downtown-Campus District is defined as any property bounded by the Black warrior River to the North, McFarland Blvd E to the East, 15th St to the South, and 29th Ave to the West. Dwellings within this district that are zoned for residential use are Permitted by Right to operate a Short Term Rental for no more than forty-five (45) days per calendar year; so long as the property is not subject to the subsequent exceptions:
- Any Historic District Properties that belongs to a historically designated area of the City managed by the Tuscaloosa Historic Preservation Commission. Dwellings within this district that are zoned for residential use are Approved by Special Exception to operate a Short Term Rental, for a period of three (3) years unless given special conditions by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
- Any Multi-family or Condominium properties are Permitted by Right only when there are less than 150 active multi-family licenses within the TO Downtown-Campus District.
- The Outside TO Downtown-Campus District is defined any property not bounded by the Black warrior River to the North, McFarland Blvd E to the East, 15th St to the South, and 29th Ave to the West area AND within Tuscaloosa City Limits. Dwellings within this district that are zoned for single or multi-family residential use are Approved by Special Exception to operate a Short Term Rental through the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
- The Inspection/Police Jurisdiction is defined as the lands surrounding City Limits is which city emergency services respond to and where the City monitors development. Dwellings within this district are Permitted by Right to operate a Short Term Rental.
Alternatively, you can confirm your eligibility by:
- Contacting the Office of Urban Development, Planning Division at 205-248-5100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looks like my property is eligible for Short-Term Rental. How do I apply?
In cases where a property is eligible to get a Short Term Rental permit, a number of forms and approvals need to be submitted to the Planning Division. I complete list of the necessary forms can be downloaded and viewed from the sidebar on this page. The requirements for Short Term Rentals cans be broken down into the four steps shown below:
Check out our Applications & Forms page to determine what information you will need to submit and download all the appropriate application forms:
Building & Fire Code Compliance
Every premise in the City or the Police Jurisdiction applying for a short-term rental business license must meet applicable Building codes and be equipped with required safety equipment listed for Single-Family Dwellings; this includes: (Sec. 7-204(a))
- Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms;
- Operable egress windows in sleeping areas;
- Proper hand and guardrails;
- GFIC protection where required;
- Fire extinguisher(s);
- Properly displayed 9-1-1 address; and
- Emergency lighting egress.
For Whole Home Rentals (Sec.7-205):
Single-family dwellings less than three stories must be inspected by a Licensed Home Inspector (verification can be done at the Alabama State Building Commission website). An inspection report must be completed on the form established and available on this site or through the Chief Building Official.
For Individual Room Rentals (Sec. 7-204(b)):
In addition to the requirements listed for single-family dwellings, short-term rentals where the home is occupied by the owner during the rental and/or in which individual rooms are rented to separate lodging parties must be equipped with a fire sprinkler system in conformance with all applicable Building and Fire Codes.
For Apartments or Condos (Sec. 7-204(d)):
In addition to the requirements listed for single-family dwellings, short-term rentals in multifamily buildings must meet all applicable Building and Fire Codes. City of Tuscaloosa Fire inspections for mutlifamily dwellings are subject to the following criteria:
- A multifamily dwelling is a building or structure that is designed to house several different families in separate housing units. The most common types of multifamily housing are apartment buildings, duplexes, triplexes, and condominiums.
- Multifamily dwellings must be inspected by the Fire Marshal’s Office at the convenience of the owner.
- The following shall be inspected in full compliance of the building and fire code. key factors include an automatic sprinkler system throughout along with a fire alarm system that activates the occupant notification system in accordance with the 2015 international fire code:
- Bed & Breakfast more than five guest rooms,
- Lodging Houses more than five guest rooms,
- Boarding Houses, or
- Multifamily Dwellings.
Should you have further questions regarding inspection requirements of your Short-Term Rental, please contact the Fire Marshal's Office at the number listed below.
Where building upgrades are found to be required, a building permit must be obtained from the Office of Urban Development, Building and Inspections Division.
Per Sec. 7-203 of the City Code of Tuscaloosa, "at the time of application submission, must provide proof of insurance"specifically related to Short Term Rentals. Insurance must be held for the duration of the Short-term rental license/permit.
- Every person in the city or its police jurisdiction who wishes to obtain a license to conduct a short-term rental business pursuit to Section 7-200 must provide proof of the following insurance coverage:
- A rider on a homeowner's policy that expressly covers short-term rentals and provides a minimum of one million dollar ($1,000,000.00) liability and personal injury coverage; or
- A commercial insurance policy covering short-term rentals at the permitted address that provides a minimum of one million dollar ($1,000,000.00) liability and personal injury coverage.
- Insurance required above shall be without prejudice to coverage otherwise existing and shall name, as an additional interested party, the city, its officers and employees and shall provide that the policy shall not terminate or be cancelled prior to the completion of the permit period without forty-five (45) days written notice to the city at the address shown in the permit agreement.
NOTE: This insurance must include a rider that expressly covers short-term rentals or a commercial insurance policy at the permitted address with a minimum liability coverage of one million (1,000,000) dollars and lists the City of Tuscaloosa as an “additional interested party”. (See Sec. 7-203 for full requirements)
The final process to be completed is obtaining an appropriate business license, which includes completing any applicable Code Compliance procedures. Information regarding what all is required to obtain, general practices, and subsequent fees related to business licenses can be found at:
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any special restrictions on me having a Short Term Rental in my apartment or condo?
Multi-Family buildings have additional regulations for operating a Short-Term Rental based on whether or not the property is within the TO Downtown-Campus District.
- Properties within the district are Permitted by Right up to a cap of 150 Active Multi-Family licenses per year.
- Properties outside the district are Permitted by Special Exception through the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Additional information can be found on these items on the Building & Inspections webpage or by contacting the Office of Urban Development, Building & Inspections Division at 205-248-6110.
Are there any special restrictions on me having a Short Term Rental if I live in a Historic District?
All residential properties within the Historic Districts are Permitted by Special Exception through the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
For specific queries about a particular district, contact the Office of Urban Development, Planning Division at 205-248-5100 or email email@example.com.
About how much will it cost to get my Business License?
The cost of your Business License is based on a number of factors.
For more specific information on Business Licenses, check out the Business License webpage or contact the Revenue & Finanical Services Division at 205-248-5200.
I have received all the necessary signatures and approvals I need to operate my Short-Term Rental. Is there anything else I need to remember?
There are! Please remember that:
- There must be a contact available 24/7 for the rental property in case of emergencies:
- Short-Term Rental and Business Licenses need to be renewed annually;
- Your property is subject to future inspections to confirm that Building & Fire Codes are being maintined.
I think I found somebody operating a Short-Term Rental illegally, who do I call?
If you would like to report a potential illegal Short-Term Rental listing, please contact Tuscaloosa 311; either by dialing 311 (within City Limits) or Clicking the 311 icon at the bottom of this page.
In what way do I need to list the City of Tuscaloosa on my insurance; as an additional insurer or an interested party?
Please list the City of Tuscaloosa as an “additional interested party”
What if my neighborhood has restrictive covenants or a Homeowner’s Association that doesn’t allow short-term rentals?
The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) by virtue of State Law and City of Tuscaloosa Ordinance does not have the jurisdiction or authority to consider, interpret and/or enforce any term or condition of subdivision covenants and/or Home Owners Association (HOA) rules or regulations. These matters are therefore not relevant areas of inquiry by the Board on any petition. Such covenants or regulations are between the private parties involved and not the ZBA. That having been said, any decision made by the ZBA on any particular case does not necessarily preclude the enforcement of such subdivision covenants and/or HOA rules or regulations by other lawful means.