Saturday, February 27, 2016

Short Term Residential Rentals

One of the things that is sometimes forgotten about short-term residential rentals is that not only must you comply with the local zoning provisions, but you must also be sure to comply with the applicable building code regulations. Most people fail to distinguish between building regulations and zoning regulations, but they are distinctly different. One shorthand way of looking at it is that zoning regulations are designed to minimize the adverse impacts on surrounding properties, whereas the building code is designed to protect people who occupied the structure.

In zoning terms, short-term residential rentals may run afoul of a local zoning requirement which may define permanent residential use as being greater then some arbitrary time. Such as more than 30 days, more than six months, or more than a year. If the use of the property does not comply with the local zoning regulations, then the use may be enjoined, that is, prohibited altogether.

In the case of the building code, short-term residential rentals may increase the types of safety precautions which are necessary. Here in Tennessee, single-family residential occupancy does not typically require automatic fire sprinklers. Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-120-101(a)(8)(A).

The question here is whether such short term residential rentals, let’s say, less than 30 days in duration, require automatic fire sprinklers despite the limits imposed by the statute referenced above. As it turns out, the State Fire Marshal’s Office has provided some answers to these questions.

First, SFMO defines what I have called short-term residential rentals as follows:
A transient rental home (“TRH”) is a building that is a single dwelling unit providing complete independent living facilities including, but not limited to, permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation occupied for thirty (30) days or less. These include rental cabins, buildings offered for rent on Airbnb and similar services, yurts and similar structures.
If the TRH is three stories or less in height, 5000 or fewer square feet in size, with 12 or less occupants, automatic fire sprinklers are not required. If these requirements are not met, the transient rental home must be sprinklered.
TRHs with three (3) or less stories, less than five-thousand (5,000) gross square feet, and twelve (12) or fewer occupants shall be classified as one- and two- family dwellings subject to Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0780-02-23 (One and Two Family Dwellings and Townhouses). These buildings may be regulated by cities and counties that have received an exemption to enforce codes for one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses from the SFMO. These buildings are subject to the fire sprinkler exemptions of Tenn. Code Ann § 68-120-101(a)(8)(A).
TRHs with thirteen (13) or more occupants, four (4) or more stories, or five thousand (5,000) gross square feet or more are to be classified as R-3 and subject  to the IBC and Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0780-02-03 (Review of Construction Plans and Specifications). These buildings may be regulated by cities and counties that have received an exemption to enforce codes for commercial buildings from the SFMO. These buildings are not subject to the fire sprinkler regulations of Tenn. Code Ann § 68-120-101(a)(8)(A).
These new regulations took effect on February 1, 2016.

Essentially, if you are hosting short-term rental activities, you should check to see that you comply not only with the local zoning regulations, but also with the local and state building codes. If your building is more than three stories in height, greater than 5000 square feet in size, or houses more than 13 occupants at a time, the building code regulations here in Tennessee fall under the more strictly scrutinized R-3 residential occupancy of the International Building Code, rather than the less strict International Residential Code.

Source: Memo from SFM0 dated January 29, 2016 re: Transient Rental Homes

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