Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance

Supporting Visitors, the Economy & our Neighborhoods

Monterey County Regulation


If your STR is in an unincorporated area of Monterey County, your home is subject to County regulation. The unincorporated inland and coastal regions of Monterey County have different regulations. 

To determine if your STR is in the coastal zone or the inland areas, you may click on the following links:

North Coast Map        Del Monte Forest Area Map       Carmel Area Map     California Coastal Zone

Monterey County Regulation

The inland region of the County of Monterey has a regulation controlling STRs, but the permit fee is very high and the process to get the permit is lengthy and burdensome. The permit cost is about $6,000 and the process may take months. If the owner obtains a permit, he may rent for any period of 7 days or more. Any unpermitted STR in the inland region is subject to citation and fines.

An STR in the coastal region of the County is now prohibited and subject to citation and fines. In the coastal zone there is no County ordinance that permits STRs but there is also no County ordinance that specifically prohibits STRs. However in July 2015, the County released a memorandum officially stating its “interpretation” that, if STRs are not specifically permitted by ordinance, they are prohibited. 

Click here for Monterey County's regulation history and current regulations

Monterey County Preliminary Draft Short-Term Rental Ordinance

Summary by MCVRA

On November 29, 2017 the Monterey County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the second draft of preliminary regulations of short-term rentals (STRs) in both coastal and non-coastal areas except the Big Sur Coast Land Use Plan Area. See Monterey County Weekly. This is a summary of the draft ordinance.

Big Sur

On January 10, 2018 the Planning Commission addressed STRs in the Big Sur Coast Land Use Planning Area. The Commissioners decided unanimously to include Big Sur in the development of the STR ordinance. MCVRA supported this. Big Sur represents about 70% of the Monterey County coastline. We argued that visitors should have the option to stay in an STR along this coastline and that the California Coastal Commission expects this. The ordinance will advance from the second draft heard on November 29, 2017. Eventually, the ordinance must be tested for consistency against each of the 13 land use plans for the various regions of the County. Additional restrictions may have to be added to the ordinance to meet the requirements of the land use plans such as the Big Sur Land Use Plan. See KION coverage.

Second Draft Ordinance Summary

This second draft ordinance provides a relatively easy licensing process for hosted STRs where the owner is present during the rental but non-hosted STRs would be subject to considerably more scrutiny in the application process to get a required use permit. See Monterey Herald.

STR types and the permitting process

STR types and the permitting process is based on the following criteria: the STR operator’s principal place of residence; the number of bedrooms; if operator is present (hosted) or not (non-hosted) during the rental period; and rental frequency limitations (based on number of contracts).

All STRs must obtain a business license and prior to issuance of the license, must obtain either a Zoning Clearance or a) a Use Permit (if in non-coastal area) or b) a Coastal Development Permit (if in coastal zone). A primary resident (owner or lessee) can do short-term rentals subject to a relatively simple license process; STRs being operated at properties that are not a primary residence or dwellings with more than 5 bedrooms must obtain either a Use Permit or Coastal Development Permit. See flow chart below.

MCVRA comments: We have repeatedly strongly advocated for a simple license for all types of STRs but the County staff and the Planning Commissioners have unanimously supported a use permit for STRs as described above. A use permit is likely to be expensive, will take months to process, and may be discretionary. We will continue to push for a simple, easy process for all STR owners. This would encourage every STR owner to apply for an annual license and would also make enforcement easy if rules are not followed. A license could simply not be renewed.

MCVRA pointed out that the Coastal Commission will not require Coastal Development Permits for STRs. A Coastal development permit requirement was a cause for rejection by the Coastal Commission review of the 1997 ordinance. The Commission wrote, “Transient rental of dwellings is not a new category of use nor an intensification of use. As such, a coastal development permit is not an appropriate mechanism for regulating transient rentals.”

MCVRA also pointed out that the STR category allowing 12 or fewer bookings per year is not needed. California law allows an owner to rent their home once, and only once, per a 30 night period even if the guests stays and pays for just a few days.

Short-term rentals shall only be allowed in a single-family dwelling (SFD) or multi-family dwellings (MFD) and a legally established guest house. Short-term rentals shall not be permitted in non-habitable or unpermitted structures. Tents, yurts, recreational vehicles (RVs) are not allowed as a short-term rental.

Only one (1) STR unit shall be allowed per lot. This limit shall apply to any multi-family dwelling (e.g. duplex).

Headcount Limits

Overnight headcount is limited as follows: no more than one (1) person for each 70 square feet of bedroom for the first two (2) persons in that bedroom, and one (1) person per 50 sq. ft. for each additional person beyond two (2) in that bedroom; and maximum occupancy of two (2) times the total number of bedrooms. Daytime headcount, renters plus visitors, shall not exceed one and one-half (1.5) times the maximum overnight occupancy. Thus most 2 bedroom homes would be limited to 4 overnight people and 6 daytime people.

MCVRA comment: We have pointed out that this headcount limit may be discriminatory against families with infants and young children. California has adopted a "two-plus-one" formula, which permits two people per bedroom plus one additional person for the household.

Special Events

Large special events are not allowed. Ordinances for events will be developed after staff has completed ordinances for STR.

MCVRA comment: Large events can cause noise and parking nuisances. We support the development of a special event ordinance that would require a separate event permit.


STRs must provide at least one (1) off-street parking space for every two (2) bedrooms. STRs with one (1) or two (2) bedrooms must provide at least one (1) off-street parking space; STRs with three (3) or four (4) bedrooms must provide at least two (2) off-street parking spaces; and STRs with five (5) bedrooms must provide at least three (3) off-street parking spaces. The off-street parking space(s) shall be entirely on the STR site.

Water Quality

For any STR that does not receive water service from a public water company, the applicant shall provide comprehensive water quality analysis and that analysis is required to be completed at least every five (5) years. Bacteria (total coliform and E. coli) and any constituent that was 50% or more of the maximum contaminant level shall be tested annually and prior to renewal of an STR permit and business license.

MCVRA comment: We have questioned the need for this testing since long-term rentals are not subject to this.

Wastewater Systems

For STRs on a septic/onsite wastewater treatment system (OWTS), the applicant shall provide a performance evaluation of the OWTS completed by a qualified professional and evidence that the septic tank and dispersal system are functioning properly. There is now no requirement for two functioning disposal fields for sites on septic or on-site wastewater treatment systems.

MCVRA comment: In the earlier draft ordinance, we had objected to the requirement for dual disposal fields and were pleased to see this requirement removed. We continue to question the need for an OWTS performance evaluation since long-term rentals are not subject to this.

Garbage Service

The STR shall have garbage service from a franchised waste hauler.

Private Roads

For non-coastal zone STRs on a private road, the application is subject to Monterey County Code Section 21.64.320 Regulations (Proof of Access) relating to involving use of private roads.

MCVRA comment: The coastal zone version of this regulation code was rejected by the California Coastal Commission. The County has not stated how it will handle applications for coastal zone STRs on private roads. This is an issue that will be addressed in the future.

Local Contact Person

All STRs operating within unincorporated Monterey County must have a property manager who is available twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week during all times that the property is rented or used on a transient basis. Property managers may be professional property managers, realtors, property owners, or other designated persons. The property manager must be available to respond to complaints and arrive at the STR site within 30 minutes at all times during the rental period.

MCVRA comment: We will ask that the 30 minute arrival be changed to a requirement to respond via telephone within 30 minutes and, if that does not resolve the problem, then arrival at the STR site within 60 minutes. Most issues can be resolved via telephone.


STR advertising is prohibited unless a license or permit has been issued. ·

Rental Contracts

All rental contracts, advertisements and listings for the STR shall include the following: Transient Occupancy License Number, Maximum occupancy, Maximum number of vehicles, Notification of quiet hours, Advertised Rental Rate

Application for License or Permit

The license/permit application shall include:

a. Completed Application Form

b. Property Manager Contact Information including name, address, phone number and email address

c. Affidavit of Residency

d. One (1) Set of Plans drawn to scale including:

i. Site Plan including locations and dimensions of all property lines, rights-of-ways, vehicular easements, edge of pavement, driveways and on-site parking areas, and existing buildings

ii. Floor Plan showing all rooms, including windows and doors

e. Copy of the STR rental contract, including but not limited to:

i. Transient Occupancy License Number for that STR

ii. Maximum occupancy – nighttime occupants and total daytime limits

iii. Maximum number of vehicles

iv. Notification of quiet hours

v. OWTS education section

f. An inspection report that provides and verifies information to ensure the property is safe and habitable for its intended use, including but not limited to: verification of adequate egress from sleeping quarters and common areas; installation of accessible fire extinguishers; a carbon monoxide alarm on each level; and that the property exists in accord with appropriate land use and building permits

g. Comprehensive Water Quality Analysis if applicable

h. Septic/OWTS Performance Evaluation Form if applicable

i. Copy of OWTS informational signs

j. Evidence of Adequate Solid Waste Services

k. Transient Occupancy Tax Registration Certificate


A STR business license may be suspended, revoked or prohibited by a hearing officer when considering:

a. More than two documented violations in a twelve-month period.

b. Nature and severity of the violations


Administrative citations may impose fines based on Advertised Rental Rates

1. A fine not exceeding four-hundred percent (400%) of the Advertised Rental Rate per day per violation or one thousand dollars ($1000.00) per day per violation for short term rentals without an Advertised Rental Rate for a first violation;

2. A fine not exceeding six-hundred percent (600%) of the Advertised Rental Rate per day per violation or two thousand five hundred dollars ($2500.00) per day per violation for short term rentals without an Advertised Rental Rate for a second violation of the same ordinance within one year; and

3. A fine not exceeding eight-hundred percent (800%) of the Advertised Rental Rate per day per violation or five thousand dollars ($5000.00) per day per violation for short term rentals without an Advertised Rental Rate for each additional violation of the same ordinance within one year of the first violation.

Next Steps

The Preliminary Draft STR Ordinance does not propose any density limitations that would apply to specific neighborhoods, zoning districts, land use planning areas, or other appropriate area. Staff will evaluate if any limitations would be advisable in each Land Use Plan Area, and if so, what limits are appropriate.

The staff plans to bring complete coastal and non-coastal ordinances before the Planning Commission in “late spring” 2018.

More Information

For more information beyond this summary see:

Second County Draft STR Ordinance

Second County Draft STR Application

For information on Proof of Access – Private Roads Ordinance, go to bottom of this page

Email Your Letters to Monterey County

We strongly urge owners to write to Monterey County.

  • Express why you rent your home to visitors.
  • State why a fair ordinance is beneficial for everyone.
  • Explain that your second home is not a source of income, and that, for most of you, your income does not meet the costs associated with the ownership of the house.
  • Express that you would never offer your home as a long-term rental since you want to use it yourself.
  • Tell them why you bought the home in the first place and why you are willing to keep it, even though you probably show a loss on it each year.
  • Tell the Commissioners how much your home would rent for if it were offered as a long-term rental. They need to understand that it would hardly be “affordable housing.”

Click here for the names, positions, and email addresses for County decision makers. The file lets you simply copy and paste their email addresses into your email.

Big Sur

Opponents to short-term rentals in Big Sur believe these rentals violate the current Big Sur Land Use Plan (LUP) and that Big Sur should be excluded from any future County ordinance which may permit such rentals.

Attorney Gary Patton, a land use expert, did an analysis of the Big Sur LUP. He finds the LUP language actually would encourage short-term rentals in the Big Sur Land Use Planning Area. Click here for his analysis.  

Click here for a 5/13/16 Carmel Pine Cone Article.  And here for 1/19/18 Carmel Pine Cone Article. Any changes to the Big Sur LUP that might limit or prohibit short-term rentals would have to be reviewed and approved by the County of Monterey and since Big Sur is in the coastal zone, by the California Coastal Commission.

Big Sur residents and businesses have asked that STRs to be separately considered as part of a proposed, revised Big Sur land use plan (BSLUP). Supervisor Mary Adams supported this and the Planning Commissioners went along. This leaves Big Sur STR owners out of the current ordinance discussion. The proposed BSLUP would ban all STRs in Big Sur, something that is unlikely to get Coastal Commission approval. MCVRA wrote a lengthy letter to the Coastal Commission objecting to the BSLUP. At this time, the County has not acted on the revised BSLUP.


MCVRA along with the architects' and realtors' associations worked with the County Planning Department to create a Proof of Access ordinance affecting private roads. On August 26, 2014 the County Board of Supervisors approved two Proof of Access ordinances.  The ordinances are not everything we hoped for.  If your vacation rental is on a private road, including a private road owned and managed by a homeowners association, these ordinances may affect you when you apply for a vacation rental permit in the future.  You will need to establish that you and your guests have the right of access. The County will rely on written agreements such as a private road agreement, a private road maintenance agreement, or your homeowner’s association governing documentation.  These, if they exist, may establish your right of access.  If vacation rental use conflicts with these documents or if no documentation exists, you must get written concurrence of every easement holder on the road.  Click here for a link to the ordinances. The inland version was adopted; the coastal version was submitted to the Coastal Commission but rejected and has not been implemented in the coastal zone. If your vacation rental is on a private road, we suggest you contact MCVRA before applying for a vacation rental permit.

Register and Pay Monterey County Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) Now!

If your vacation rental is in an unincorporated area of Monterey County and if you have not been paying TOT, this is for you.  Using your advertising, the County Tax Collector will notify you to register and pay TOT.   MCVRA strongly encourages every short-term rental owner/operator to pay TOT.  A history of TOT payments may be critical to your future right to conduct your short-term rental business when the County enacts new regulations. Click here for how to proceed.