Public Health Madison & Dane County: Licenses for short-term rentals in Madison increasing

Contact: Sarah Mattes

608) 242-6414

[email protected]

Many residents in Madison and Dane County are using websites such as Airbnb and VRBO to offer short-term rentals (STR) to travelers in their home for extra income. According to local and state regulations, STRs in Dane County must be licensed by Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) to verify the operation meets all health and safety and zoning requirements, and that they pay a nightly room tax if their local government requires it. Additionally, the City of Madison only allows these rentals in the host’s primary residence.

“Madison’s regulations are beneficial to our community,” says Donna Magdalina, Rental and Housing Specialist for PHMDC. “They protect the health and safety of the short-term rental guests and help assure there is not a negative impact on neighboring property owners and the character of the neighborhood.”

As of August of 2017, only 11% of hosts were licensed. “We’ve been working really hard over the past 8 months to increase the numbers of licensed STRs. Today, 68% of hosts are now licensed and that number is steadily rising. They are either getting licensed or they are deleting their listings. Compliance is becoming the new norm,” says Magdalina.

Until last fall, it was hard to determine who was offering STR’s in their home and for PHMDC to find hosts and inform them of licensing requirements. It was estimated that there were approximately 400-500 in the City of Madison, with only a handful being licensed.

To get hosts in compliance, the City of Madison enlisted software services to identify hosts, and PHMDC began to contact the newly-identified hosts to coordinate education and licensure.

“We’ve been inspecting properties and helping hosts understand what they need to do to become licensed and why it is valuable for them,” explains Magdalina. “Even the hosts most reluctant to licensing are agreeing that regulations are important and are coming into compliance once they understand the reasons for it. Madison’s regulations maintain a local, family-run business environment, rather than the Airbnb type rentals owned by out-of-state commercial investors.”

“The Public Health Department was transparent in their inspections and what to expect,” explains new host Tiffany Viraz. “Licensing ensures safety for both the host and guests. As someone who uses Airbnb for travel, I want to know there is some standard for safety.”

Information on Short-term Rental licensing is available on the Public Health Madison & Dane County website at In addition, a free public workshop will be held in collaboration with the Greater Madison Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to inform about the licensing process. It will be on Wednesday, May 30, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Sequoya Library, 4340 Tokay Blvd, Madison. Staff from the Madison Zoning and Treasurer’s Offices, as well as Public Health will be on hand to answer questions after a 20 minute presentation.