Bellefonte borough’s short-term rental ordinance is now in effect. What to know

Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times, file

The Bellefonte borough has a new ordinance regulating short-term rentals.

After years of working on a short-term rental ordinance and most recently, a public hearing in November 2022, the Bellefonte borough council approved an ordinance during its Jan. 17 meeting. Because the type of zoning — a commercial use of a house — is relatively new, it was not previously regulated. Bellefonte is not alone in this endeavor, as short-term rentals have been a controversial topic for many local governments in recent years. Other Centre County municipalities have also passed ordinances to help regulate short-term rentals.

The ordinance went into effect Tuesday, according to its website, after the council adopted an annual application fee of $130 during its meeting Monday.

Here’s what you need to know about the ordinance.

What is a short-term rental & how can it operate in Bellefonte?

Short-term housing rentals, like those listed on Airbnb and Vrbo, have become increasingly popular for event weekends in Centre County and help generate revenue for tourism. Home owners are able to rent out their house or portion of their house to people through apps and websites for short stays, vacations and getaways.

A short-term rental, as defined by the Bellefonte borough’s ordinance, is “any dwelling unit, or portion thereof, that is offered for rent as a living facility in increments of 29 consecutive nights or less.” The short-term rental ordinance will not affect bed-and-breakfast establishments’ status or operations, as the borough has a separate B&B ordinance.

The ordinance allows short-term rental establishments in the borough to be owner occupied or non-owner occupied. New short-term rentals will not be allowed in the R-1 and R-2 (residential) zoning districts. However, short-term rentals that have already been permitted prior to the enactment of the ordinance can continue, the ordinance states.

Short-term rental properties in the R-1 and R-2 residential districts can be rented out for a maximum of 60 nights per year. During recent public hearings and discussions, some owners felt this was unfair. The approved ordinance states if any short-term rental owner in those zoning districts can provide documentation that, in their highest year, they’ve rented it out for more than 60 nights, they will be granted a certificate of nonconformity for the additional nights beyond that. This is a change from the proposed ordinance.

Short-term rentals in other zoning districts do not have a limit as to how many nights it can be rented and can operate year-round, and can be both long- and short-term rentals.

As for parking — which was also a concern for some opposing short-term rentals in residential districts — each short-term rental is allowed a maximum of two on-street parking spaces; all other parking needs to be off-street. But the number of parking spaces — both on- and off-street — can’t exceed the number of bedrooms on the property.

Signage for short-term rentals is optional, but needs to be consistent with the borough’s sign ordinance if used.

The ordinance outlines several violations — such as permit violations — and penalties for those violations, which range from warnings, to fines, to suspension.

Application & permit required

The application for the short-term rental permit is now available on the Bellefonte borough’s website,

Those who are operating short-term rentals and currently have an active rental permit through the Centre Region code will need to apply for a short-term rental permit to continue operating, the website states, and this will need to be done within 30 days. If someone doesn’t have an active permit with the Centre Region code will not be able to apply for a short-term rental.

Anyone with a short-term rental business within the borough will be required to file an application annually and pay a fee per unit. Failure to maintain the short-term rental status in R-1 and R-2 zoning districts for one year will constitute abandonment.

If a property that has a short-term rental permit is sold, the new property owner will need to apply for a new permit within one year of the transfer of sale, the ordinance states.

The application will require several items, including name, address and contact information of the property owner, address of where the business is being conducted, contact information for the “person in charge” (someone within 25 miles of the Centre County Courthouse will is at least 21 years old and will be locally available 24/7 when the property is rented out), square footage of the dwelling and square footage of the dwelling that will be used for the short-term rental, number of bedrooms to be rented, certification of parking, proof of insurance for short-term rentals and proof of registration and payment of hotel tax.

In addition to declared short-term rental dates, property owners will have to keep a schedule or calendar that shows all rental periods. When the permit is renewed, a record of when it was rented out during the previous year will be required, the ordinance states.

The borough’s zoning officer will approve or deny the short-term rental application within 30 days of the completed application being received.