California Vacation Rental Restrictions and COVID-19 Updates

Major updates:

While Gov. Newsom has issued statewide orders closing state parks, requiring people to wear face coverings in public and has directed more than 25 counties to close indoor operations, halt all indoor dining and close bars, movie theaters, zoos and museums, most reopening decisions have been left to local authorities.

  • Gov. Newsom has announced the closure of indoor operations in counties that have been on the state’s watch list for three consecutive days.
    • The affected sectors include restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos, museums and cardrooms. These businesses can still operate outdoors.
    • The mandate applies to more than 25 counties as of July 13. 
  • The California Department Of Health (FDOH) requires all residents to wear masks in public spaces.
  • California has moved into the third stage of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-stage plan. This means counties can reopen with social distancing guidelines, and includes the reopening of higher-risk businesses and venues (such as movie theaters and gyms).

Updated 7/16/2020

As the U.S. begins to reopen following many shelter-in-place orders instituted in mid-March, vacation rental bans and restrictions across major cities have left property owners and guests searching for clear answers. California short-term rental restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 concerns have been particularly difficult to navigate, both for travelers and vacation rental owners alike. 

At TurnKey, our local team of experts has been tracking and updating our calendars in real time to operate in full compliance with these restrictions. So we created this resource for travelers and homeowners to learn more about this complicated situation.

Here’s everything you need to know about vacation rental restrictions in California since COVID-19 and during its phased reopening. We will update this page as travel continues to resume and destinations reopen.

Recent History of California Vacation Rental Restrictions

On March 19, 2020, under the direction of Governor Gavin Newsom, the State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health issued a statewide order requiring Californians to stay at home to limit the spread of COVID-19. Since then, the reopening of California has been scattered throughout its 58 counties, with some counties reopening sooner and with fewer restrictions than others.

On May 8, the California Department of Public Health created a process allowing counties to move more quickly through Stage two if they meet specific criteria. The counties that submitted their COVID-19 County Variance Attestation Form were then able to open the following sectors more rapidly according to their county-specific plan for modification:

Early Stage 2: California is now open with modifications

  • Curb-side retail
  • Manufacturers
  • Logistics
  • Childcare for those outside of the essential workforce
  • Office-based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged)
  • Select services: car washes, pet grooming and landscape gardening
  • Outdoor museums, open gallery spaces and other public spaces with modifications

Expanded Stage 2 with Attestation: Upcoming changes in the Stay-at-Home Order will move the entire state methodically through opening further. Those counties with variation attestation may progress to open these sectors more rapidly:

  • Destination retail (retail stores), including shopping malls and swap meets
  • Dine-in restaurants (other amenities, like bars or gaming areas, are not permitted in Stage 2)
  • Schools with modifications
  • Limited-capacity religious services and cultural ceremonies
  • Day camps
  • Campgrounds, RV Parks, and Outdoor Recreation
  • Hotels
  • Cardrooms, Satellite Wagering Facilities and Racetracks
  • Family Entertainment Centers and Movie Theaters
  • Restaurants, Bars, and Wineries
  • Fitness Facilities
  • Museums, Galleries, Zoos, and Aquariums
  • Music, TV and film production 
  • Professional Sports without Live Audiences

Source: The California Department of Public Health 

The differences in regulations are greatly based on how each county responds to California’s Resilience Roadmap, a four-stage plan for the gradual reopening of businesses. Currently, California is moving into Stage three of Gov. Newsom’s four-stage plan. In Stage three of the plan, higher-risk workplaces are allowed to resume operations, including “ travel for permissible activities, such as healthcare, food, Stages 1-3 work, and local or activities shopping related to open sectors.” 

While there is no official date for when Stage four will begin, some counties have already begun reopening, creating their own safety plans, guided by the California Department of Public Health’s industry guidance document for hotels, lodging and short-term rentals (STRs).

Are vacation rentals open in California?

There are 58 counties in California, and the state has approved STRs for non-essential travel in over 45 counties so far. You can find more information on each county and their openings on our STR resource here.

So – now that the state of California has entered into Stage three of reopening businesses – can counties across the state all operate vacation rentals? 

Not exactly.

On California’s official roadmap to recovery,  the resumption of nonessential travel (at least at the state level) does not enter the picture until Stage four, which is when larger venues such as nightclubs, concert venues, and live sporting events would be allowed to open and take place.

While Stage three has led county governments to begin lifting restrictions across the state, the variance in these rules is complicated and it remains imperative that travelers and property owners remain informed on the regulations in their specific counties. 

For instance, while the state of California only lifted restrictions on leisure travel on June 12, Newport Beach county had already allowed the operation of vacation rentals since May 12, under the condition of a three-night minimum stay.

Additionally, San Bernardino County, a major destination county that includes Big Bear Lake, Joshua Tree and Lake Arrowhead, voted to allow operation of STRs on May 15.

We created this resource to help guests and homeowners navigate market restrictions, closings, extensions and openings while the rules around STR operations continue to change across the US.

What is open in California?

According to Visit California, “theme parks remain closed, and large spectator events and conventions are forbidden.” 

What is open?

Most hotels, campgrounds, RV parks, restaurants, wineries, museums, family entertainment centers, retail operations, beaches and national parks, including Yosemite National Park, are open or in the process of reopening, with restrictions.

Visitors should call ahead to their intended destination to learn about local restrictions. To find local guidance, here is a collection of California’s local and regional tourism offices.

Can I operate my vacation rental in California?

The operation of your vacation rental in California depends upon where your properties are located and who you plan to allow to visit. 

Different counties continue to impose a variety of restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, including minimum night stays and not allowing out-of-state travelers.

Make sure you visit your local and national government sites for the most current and updated information on the area of interest.

If you are a TurnKey homeowner, we have a team of local experts in each of our markets updating booking calendars and ensuring compliance with any STR restrictions in real-time.  

For more information on regulations in specific counties, you can contact The California Department of Public Health or other local agencies directly. 

Are vacation rentals safe?

If you plan to travel in the coming months, vacation rentals can provide private accommodations away from crowded public spaces or gathering areas, like hotel lobbies. This increases your ability to social distance and avoid groups of 10 or more people, which is still viewed as a best practice for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

Some vacation rentals also offer keyless entry, to avoid in-person interactions when accessing the home. All TurnKey vacation rentals come equipped with keyless locks, offering a zero-contact check-in experience. In addition, unless there is an emergency, our local staff will not visit the home when a guest is present. 

To travel safely you should bring your own groceries and provisions with you, listen to local guidelines like wearing a mask in public and practicing social distancing, take the same precautions that you would at home, and check the cleaning guidelines for where you plan to stay.

TurnKey Vacation Rentals’ enhanced home cleaning standards

In response to COVID-19, we have enhanced our cleaning standards in line with CDC guidelines, and to verify the use of products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19.

In addition, here are some recommendations for traveling safely and responsibly (view the full article here):

  • Plan ahead to avoid unnecessary exposure while running essential errands.
  • Practice social distancing at public areas and shared amenities.
  • Protect yourself and others by bringing face masks, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, and other items to follow safety guidelines as closely and stress-free as possible.
  • Respect neighbors and local communities through social distancing and keeping noise at respectful levels, especially at night or early in the morning.
  • Check state and local updates on recommended behavior.
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