What is a Legally Zoned & Permitted Pocono Vacation Rental: Guests Guide to Renting Legal Vacation Rentals

Question: As an organizer, why should I care if the rental we rent is legal, or illegal?

Answer: Simple. Illegal rentals get shut down by local municipalities all the time. If you book a home on Airbnb, VRBO or Directly they might not be legal. You might arrive to your vacation rental and find the doors shut, the property forgotten and your vacation ruined.

Please be cautious renting illegal vacation rentals and cabins, it can ruin your vacation and you won’t know until last minute.

Wait. Let’s Back Up! Why should you care and why does this apply to you? You are there for two nights and then you will leave. It’s not your house, it’s not your problem and all you want to do is to stay in the home were promised when you booked without any issues. That way you can look like a hero in front of your guests and everything is great.

Well, you should care, because in certain areas of Pennsylvania there are now new rules about who can and (more importantly) who cannot rent their homes short term as vacation rentals.

Guests who do not book with us, love to book houses cheap, well, there is a reason they are cheap - they might not be legal!

Hence, in order to educate some of our guests who absolutely LOVE a great deal on a vacation rental we want to provide clarity what is a legal and what is not a legal vacation rental in the Poconos.

So here goes! A crash course in Vacation Rental Regulations in Pennsylvania.

The Pocono Mountains are located in Pennsylvania: Which is a commonwealth.

What is a commonwealth and why is this important?

It simply means that every jurisdiction, such as Counties, Townships, Borough, Municipalities, HOA Communities, and even small neighborhoods can develop deed restrictions that will limit the number of transient guests that stay in their neighborhoods.

Now that we know this, it’s important to know that during the last 5 years there have been some case law that has been decided in relation to where and how rentals can exist. Reminder before we continue, please don’t forget to read our disclaimer below. We are not lawyers nor is this legal advice, consult your own legal professional before making any conclusions about our opinion - it is our opinion.

The last 5 years there have been various cases that went to the courts of Pennsylvania, arguing that rentals are allowed everywhere and for everyone. This however, was strongly overturned with a case that was just decided in the Supreme Court of PA last month: Slice of Life VS Hamilton Township, PA.

Justia summarized this consultation as such: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted discretionary review to determine whether a zoning ordinance that defined “family” as requiring “a single housekeeping unit” permitted the purely transient use of a property located in a residential zoning district. This question arose based on the increasingly popular concept of web-based rentals of single-family homes to vacationers and other short-term users (usually for a few days at a time). The Supreme Court concluded that pursuant to its prior decisions in Albert v. Zoning Hearing Bd. of N. Abington Twp., 854 A.2d 401 (Pa. 2004), and In re Appeal of Miller, 515 A.2d 904 (Pa. 1986), the purely transient use of a house is not a permitted use in a residential zoning district limiting use to single-family homes by a "single housekeeping unit."

What does this mean for the the owners of residential vacation rentals (90% of all rentals in the Poconos are in residential districts)?

Many of these rentals (not all) will need to shut down in the next few months as local municipalities begin identifying them.

What does this mean for guests?

There are 16 townships in Monroe County, PA. Only about half of them allow short term rentals. On average there are are about 3,000 vacation rentals in the Poconos and since only about 8 townships allow rentals (there could be more) in residential areas this means that about 50% of all rentals (1,500) might have to close their doors because they now became - ILLEGAL! That’s a lot of rentals that will stop renting their homes on Airbnb, VRBO and other sites.

Therefore, it means that many guests might arrive to their vacation home, and find that they cannot stay there because those homes are not Legal.

So, what is a legal vacation rental?

A legal vacation rental is in an area that permits vacation rental activity in an R1 or R2 zone or Commercial zones, it has permission from the township or Borough, pays for a license and advertises the correct amount of bedrooms and sleep number based on the building conditions of the home when the home was first designed and built.

Also, legal rentals pay sales tax, here they call it a hotel tax 6% of which is collected by the state and 3% of which is collected by the county. Airbnb and VRBO collect and remit our taxes for us, but rentals that are legal will also have a tax certificate and they can present it when asked. Not everyone will, but many should.

This means that houses that were build for a septic system of 3 bedrooms (which would allow legally to sleep 8-10 people (3 per bedroom and 2-4 in the living room) and are now advertising their home to sleep 20, will get shut down until they advertise their homes correctly. Things are getting organized here in the Poconos.

As guests satisfaction is Grand Leisure Travels main concern we want every guest to know that ALL of Grand Leisure Travel’s homes and cabins are either in areas that currently have permission to rent or we are working on getting permission from local municipalities. None of our homes are in areas where rentals are not allowed and none of our guests should be concerned about being left in the terrible positions of finding a new home the minute they arrive to find the home they originally rented is shut down.

We urge all our guests, past and present to ask questions of us and of our competitors, here are some good questions to ask before finalizing a rental on Airbnb, VRBO or direct.

  1. Are you a legally zoned and permitted rental?

  2. Do you have a license?

  3. On your license, how many people can you legally sleep?

  4. How many bedrooms are legally permitted in your rental?

  5. Have you received a violation notice from your local municipality about not being able to rent this house for vacation rental purposes?

  6. Do you pay hotel taxes? Do you have a rental certificate?

Anyone who has all the answers to these questions (we do) and will not avoid them (illegal rentals will not) is a sure bet.

The Smart Way to Vacation - Travel Smart,

Grand Leisure Travel

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Grand Leisure Travel, LLC or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.