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Short-Term Rental Permits for Existing Buildings

Learn about accessory short-term rental (ASTR) permits in existing homes. Find out if bedrooms are up to code, if rental rooms are permitted and if bedrooms or basement units are legal. Read historical code requirements for windows in short-term apartments.

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Find out if bedrooms are up to code in your short term rental

Housing in Portland is diverse in age and construction type. Many bedrooms in older homes were approved to be used as sleeping rooms based on the building code requirements at that time.

Some older homes have bedrooms that were never approved as legal sleeping rooms. Examples might include attics, basements, garages, porches, patios, or other accessory buildings.

If you don't know if a bedroom was legally converted in the past, research this before applying for a short term rental permit. If the bedroom wasn't legally created with a permit, this will be come up during property inspection. This can be a costly and time-consuming process. 

You can find recent permit history and building plans on Portland Maps. You can review historic building permit plans and inspection cards using the How to Request Public Property Records webpage.  

Learn if you can legally rent a bedroom to overnight guests

Sometimes permit records don't identify how you can use an attic, basement or other area of a home. Often attics and basements were only approved as storage space. They may not have been approved as a bedroom. It's also possible the an attic or basement was built to include a living area but historic permit records don't have this information.

If there are no clear permit records, Development Services can evaluate rooms to find out if they were meant to used as bedrooms. This inspection is done for a fee and examines how the space is set up and the finish materials used.

During this paid inspection, we evaluate floor finish, wall cover material, window trim, head height, and stair configuration. The finish material may vary from those found on other floors or parts of the home. But, the criteria for finish material is based on what type of finishes were typical for the time period of original construction and for the style of the house.

To determine whether or not a space was originally constructed or converted as a sleeping room, the criteria will focus on the historical code requirements for windows in sleeping rooms. Window requirements for sleeping rooms have changed and evolved since the adoption of the City’s first Housing and Building Codes.

1928 window requirement – The window area of each room shall be at least one-eight (1/8) of the floor area of the room. For each room there shall be either one window not less than twelve (12) square feet in areas or two windows not less than six (6) square feet in area. Fixed windows are allowed provided adequate ventilation was provided by doors or other windows. No minimum sill height is specified.

1938 window requirement – The window area of each room shall be at least one-eighth (1/8) of the net floor area of the room. For each room used or intended to be used for living purposes, there shall be at least one window of not less than twelve (12) square feet in area, or two windows of not less than six (6) square feet in area. Windows shall provide an openable area not less than 45%of the total required window area (either 1/8th of floor area or minimum of 12 square feet, whichever is greater). A fixed window may be counted as required window area if openable area equal to at least 45% of the required window area is provided. A door opening from a room to the outside may count as a part of the required openable area if at least one-half (1/2) of the required openable area is provided by a window. No minimum sill height is specified.

1956 window requirement – All rooms for sleeping purposes shall be provided with windows with an area of twelve square feet or one-eighth of the floor area of the room, whichever is greater. Not less than one half of the required window area shall be openable. Fixed windows may be used if a mechanical ventilation system capable of producing a change or air every five minutes and connected directly to the outside is installed. No minimum sill height is specified.

1973 window requirement – Sleeping rooms must have a window with a net clear openable area of not less than 5 square feet with no dimensions less than 22 inches. Sill height may not be more than 48 inches above the floor.

1976 window requirement – Sleeping rooms must have a window with a net clear opening of not less than 5.7 square feet. The minimum net clear opening height dimension shall be 24 inches. The minimum net clear opening width dimension shall be 20 inches. Sill height may not be more than 44 inches above the floor.

1995 window requirement – Sleeping rooms must have a window with a net clear opening of not less than 5.7 square feet. The minimum net clear opening height dimension shall be 22 inches and the minimum net clear opening width dimesons shall be 20 inches. Sill height may not be more than 44 inches above the floor.

Short term rentals in old apartments and hotels- Chapter 13 of the Uniform Building Code

You can't have a short-term rental in a building subject to Chapter 13 of the Uniform Building Code (1970 edition) except when the Fire Marshal’s office states in writing that a fire sprinkler system protects the exit ways. Learn more about short term rental permits and old buildings.

Background and list of building addresses subject to Chapter 13 regulations 

Many older structures built under previous codes do not meet current safety requirements. They don't have enclosed stairways, enclosed vertical shafts, or availability of proper exits. 

The purpose of Chapter 13 is to provide a reasonable degree of safety to persons living and sleeping in apartments and hotels. By 1975, all buildings subject to the Chapter 13 building regulations had been inspected and brought into compliance.

Start by contacting the Fire Marshal's office

If you want a short-term rental permit for a building subject to Chapter 13 regulations, contact the City of Portland Fire Marshal’s office. They will verify that the building has a fire sprinkler system that protects the exit ways. The Fire Marshal will send you verification if the fire sprinkler system protects the exit way. Submit the Fire Marshal’s letter with your application. 

To request a letter email Sr. Fire Inspector Michael Silva. Please reference “ASTR Chapter 13 fire sprinkler verification” in the email subject line. Include the property address, and your name, email address and phone number in the email. 

There is no additional fee charged for this verification. Please allow up to 10 business days from the email submission date to receive written verification from the Fire Marshal’s Office.