Vacation Rentals Information and Application

San Juan County Council Vacation Rental Permit Caps

Council members voted to establish permit limits for Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan, and outer islands.

Ord 05-2022 Cap Permits for Vacation Rentals_ADUs - signed

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. MAY 25, 2022 – San Juan County Council voted unanimously (3-0) on May 17 to limit the number of vacation rental permits on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Island, as well as on outer islands. 

  • Vacation rental permits are limited per island as follows: 
  • San Juan Island: 337 vacation rental permits
  • Orcas Island: 211 vacation rental permits 
  • Lopez Island: 135 vacation rental permits
  • Outer islands: 10 vacation rental permits, except for Shaw and Waldron which have existing ordinances that do not allow short-term vacation rentals. 

Since 2019, the Council and the County Planning Commission have collectively held seven public hearings on the vacation rental issue and have compiled extensive public comments. The final limits reflect the individual island communities and balance the economic benefits of vacation rentals, their impact on island neighborhoods, and the stability of housing availability in the County. 

The new limits will take effect on June 2 - ten working days after the ordinance was adopted. What this means moving forward: 

  • The new caps do not take away existing active or inactive permits that are fully compliant with County regulatory requirements and fees. • If the number of permits on a given island is above the cap, no new permits will be issued until the number of permits has fallen below the cap through abandonment, revocation, or other voluntary attrition. 
  • New permits will be issued using a lottery system that will be determined at a future meeting. 
  • The permit limits do not apply to homes located on properties with master planned resort zoning, including those within Roche Harbor Resort. For more information about vacation rentals and permitting, please visit: https://www.sanjuanco.com/1836/Vacation-Rental-Compliance-Enforcement

A vacation rental permit is required in order to rent a single-family residence or accessory dwelling unit for periods of less than 30 days in San Juan County.  Properties located in the Eastsound Village Commercial land use designation do not require a permit but are required to comply with the vacation rental requirements.  San Juan County has required vacation rental permits since 1997.  In 2018, the County updated its regulations to require existing permit holders to annually certify compliance with their conditions of permit approval.  Certificates of compliance for 2020 were due December 31, 2020.

San Juan County actively enforces the vacation rental permit requirements by reviewing online advertising. Any advertisement for a vacation rental must include the San Juan County vacation rental permit number or compliance number.  The penalty for advertising or operating an unpermitted vacation rental is $2,300.  

The vacation rental requirements are found in the San Juan County Code Section 18.40.275.  

QUESTIONS? Please check Frequently Asked Questions below for the answers to most questions. Use the tabs to navigate between Vacation Rental FAQs and Certificate of Compliance FAQs. If you have other questions or need assistance determining whether or not vacation rental of your property is allowed and if so, which type of permit (conditional use or provisional use) might be required, please submit an "Ask a Planner" form to the Department of Community Development that includes the subject property address and/or tax parcel number. If you submit a vacation rental permit application, please attach the "Ask a Planner" response that you receive with your application materials.

Vacation Rental Permit Application Forms

Vacation  Rental Certificate of Compliance for Existing Permit Holders

Every year vacation rental permit holders are required to submit a Vacation Rental Certificate of Compliance to the Department of Community Development. You must do this each year even if your permit is not active. Certificates are submitted between September and December 31 of each year.  Currently we are accepting the 2021 Compliance Certificates that let us know that you operated in compliance in the year 2021.   Vacation Rental Certificates of Compliance are submitted online through the County's Online Permit Center.  In order to submit online, you will need the following information for the vacation rental:

  • Address
  • Parcel number 
  • Vacation Rental Permit Number
  • Uniform Business Identifier (UBI) Number- if you are active, this is required. If you are inactive, just enter Not Applicable
  • Name of On-Island Property Manager
  • Address of On-Island Property Manager
  • 24 Hour Emergency Contact Number
  • Number of Bedrooms granted by the Vacation Rental Permit 
  • A  scanned copy of your Rules of Conduct (ROC), if you made any changes in the last year. If you have not changed your ROC in the last year, you do not need to upload a copy.
  • Do you need to know if we have received your 2019 compliance certificate?  Use this link to download a searchable excel spreadsheet of those that we received in 2019. You will need to click on the report entitled "2019 Vacation Rental Compliance Report - Active and Inactive".


Submit your vacation rental certificate of compliance online here: San Juan County Online Permit Center

You do not need to fill out the paper form to submit online, but you will need the same information as on the form available when you submit. You will need to create an account. Once you have verified your account through a link sent to your e-mail (check junk mail) you must log off and log back in again. When you are logged in, you will be able to apply for a permit. Select the "Land Use" from drop down category box, and then "Vacation Rental Certificate of Compliance" from the type drop down box.  

Find A Vacation Rental Permit 

We have updated our open source data and map showing the location of vacation rental permits. The data is current through March 31, 2019.  San Juan County GIS Vacation Rental Data

This data shows permits that may have been abandoned, and does not reflect current status of permits as valid permits.

Certificate of Compliance FAQ

Q. Is there a fee for a certificate of compliance?

Answer: Yes, there is a fee of $145 if you use the Online Permit Center. Payment will be taken at the end of the submittal process. Paper forms may be mailed in for a $160 fee. make checks payable to SJC DCD. This is required regardless of your permit status.

Q.  I'm not currently using my vacation rental permit, but I might in the future and I want to keep my permit. What do I do?

Answer:  Complete the certificate of compliance indicating that your permit is "inactive". You will still need to complete parts 2 & 10, sign, and submit the form.   If you decide to rent it, you will need to submit a new form and complete it for "active" rental. 

Q. Do I need a Uniform Business Identification number (UBI)?

Answer: You must have a UBI number if your vacation rental is being rented and is, therefore "active".  Active vacation rentals are required to pay sales and lodging tax to the State of Washington. If you are currently operating the vacation rental, you must have a UBI number regardless of the amount of income the vacation rental generates.

Q. How do a get a UBI number?

Answer: The Washington State Department of Revenue issues UBI numbers.

Q. I've submitted my certificate of compliance, what happens next?

Answer: DCD staff will review the certificates. If we need additional information or corrections we will contact you. Don't worry, you will have plenty of time beyond Dec 31, 2018, to provide the additional information.

Q. Do I need to schedule a fire inspection? 

Answer: No. You will be placed on the fire inspection schedule for the Fire Marshal. He will contact you to set up an inspection. Inspections will occur approximately every 2- 3 years.

Q. What if I don't want my vacation rental permit anymore?

Answer: Send an email stating that you are abandoning your permit and providing the permit number. We will send a confirmation, but it may take us a couple of weeks.

  1. Vacation Rental FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does a vacation rental permit cost?

Answer: The land use and shoreline designation where the vacation rental is located determines if a vacation rental is allowed and whether it is a conditional use or a provisional use.  The fee for a conditional use permit is $2,300. The fee for a provisional use permit is $1,000. 

Q.  Are vacation rentals allowed everywhere in San Juan County?

Answer: No. Vacation rentals are not allowed in the following areas and structures: 

  • Natural shoreline designation
  • Conservancy shoreline designation
  • Agricultural Resource land use designation 
  • Forest Resource land use designation 
  • Shaw Island
  • Waldron Island
  • Owner-Builder Exempt structures
  • Structures connected to the Town of Friday Harbor water system (this is a Town requirement, not a County requirement)
  • Structures other than a single-family residence or accessory dwelling
  • Boats, tents, vehicles or unpermitted structures

Q. Can I rent out my detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)? 

Answer: Only if the ADU was constructed with a permit prior to June 29, 2007, or is located in an Urban Growth Area (UGA).  A detached ADU constructed after this date may not be a vacation rental unless it is located in a UGA.

Q. Can I have a vacation rental if I am located on a private road?

Answer: Yes. The county does not enforce private road agreements, but your homeowner's association may.

Q. How do I find the properties within 300 feet of my property? 

Answer: Use the San Juan County Polaris web mapping application. It has a measurement tool and you can use the information button to get the names and addresses of property owners on those properties.

Q. What do I do if my vacation rental is located in Eastsound Village Commercial and doesn't require a permit?

Answer: Submit your certificate of compliance and note in the permit number space that you would like to request a compliance number for your advertising. We will issue you a compliance number.  You must still comply with vacation rental regulations found in SJCC 18.40.275, including the requirement for on-site parking.

Q. I bought a property with a vacation rental permit. Do I need to reapply for a new permit?

Answer: In most cases, no. Vacation rental permits run with the land. In some limited cases, the permit was granted to a specific landowner. You can find this in the conditions of approval for your permit.  You will need to certify compliance with the conditions of your permit within 90 days of the transfer of title. See Certificate of Compliance FAQ on the next tab. 

Q.  Certificate of Compliance FAQs are accessed by toggling the tab to the right of this tab