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What is a Tourist Rooming House (TRH)?
In Wisconsin law, rental for less than 30 nights of any partial or whole
structure for sleeping accommodations is called a Tourist Rooming
House (TRH). Airbnb, VRBO and are a few online businesses
that offer to connect hosts and travellers. A Zoning Tourist Rooming
House (ZTRHP) Permit is required before advertising or renting this type
of space online or elsewhere.

What is the Zoning Tourist Rooming House Permit (ZTRHP1)?
The ZTRHP1 Permit allows the operation of a TRH for stays of one night or more. If host is present when guests stay, there is no limit to the number of rental nights. If host is not present, there is a 30-night maximum that the TRH may operate. This must be host’s primary residence.*

What is the definition of a primary residence?
A dwelling unit that serves as an individual’s true, fixed and permanent
home for at least 183 days in a calendar year and to which, whenever
absent from, that individual intends to return. Additional characteristics
of a primary residence include, but are not limited to, where
an individual receives mail, claims residence for purposes of voter
registration, pays for utilities, and lists as their address on state issued
identification cards. An individual can have only one primary residence.

Who can operate a TRH?
TRHs can be operated by home owners, or by tenants if explicitly allowed
in the lease.

Can I operate a Tourist Rooming House in my apartment?
Tourist Rooming Houses are allowable in all residential dwelling units
within the City of Madison provided all regulations are followed.

Do I need any special approvals or permits to rent out my
home as a TRH?

You will need a valid Zoning Tourist Rooming House Permit (ZTRHP) from the City of Madison Zoning Department. To apply for the ZTRHP permit, you will first need a Tourist Rooming House license from Public Health. You will also need a Transient Room Tax Permit from the City Treasurer's Office.

Where can I find information about the rules and regulations about a Tourist Rooming House?
Go to

I already have a TRH license from Public Health. Do I need a ZTRHP permit too?

What does the zoning home visit involve?
This is a walk-through of the unit in order to verify application information,
especially submitted floor plans and bedroom counts. This is also an opportunity to go over the regulations and what’s expected of hosts and to answer any questions hosts may have.

What fees are involved for obtaining all proper permits and licenses?
There is a one-time, non-refundable $100 ZTRHP application fee, plus the ZTRHP annual fee of $100. You will need a TRH license from Public Health in order to obtain the ZTRHP permit. Check their website for fee information about their license and other costs that may possibly be involved.

What’s the difference between the TRH operator and the person listed as host in website postings and advertisements for the TRH?
They are the same. An operator is the owner or lessee of the TRH dwelling and the person who runs the TRH. The operator is the person identified in TRH postings and ads as the TRH host. The operator interacts with guests, both digitally and in person.

What does it mean to be "on site" during a rental?
Being on site means the operator remains at the TRH through the night and does not reside elsewhere when guests have reserved the TRH.

Do I need my Home Owner’s Association (HOA) permission to operate a TRH?
The City of Madison is not a party to and does not enforce any private homeowners’ association regulations. Owners should review private regulations for the property they or their tenants wish to use as a TRH. These regulations may restrict an owner from allowing the dwelling to be used as a TRH.

Can I rent out several rooms separately to different reservation parties?
Only if the operator stays on site through the night of each rental night while multiple reservation parties are present.*

Can I rent out my whole home and be gone during the rental time?
The TRH may only operate a maximum of 30 nights per year when the operator is not on site during the overnights of guest stays. If the operator is on site during guest stays there is no limit to the number of nights the TRH may operate.*

I own a two-flat apartment building and live in the first floor unit. Can I rent the upstairs apartment as a TRH?
No. The TRH must be the operator’s primary residence. An operator can only have one primary residence.*

Can my sister, who lives in an apartment above my TRH, be a cohost?
No. The TRH must be the primary residence of all hosts and cohosts listed in any ad postings. All hosts and cohosts must each submit a separate residence affidavit.*

Can I rent out my Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) as a TRH?
The TRH must be the operator’s primary residence. If the operator lives in the main house, they cannot rent out the ADU as a TRH. If the operator lives in the ADU, they can rent out the ADU as a TRH but cannot rent out the main house as a TRH. An operator can only have one primary residence.*

Can I rent out the RV in my driveway, or the tent in my backyard, or my garage as a TRH?
No, this is not allowable. Only habitable space within a home may be rented out as a TRH.

My daughter is a college student who rents an apartment from a property owner with a year long lease. Can I rent out her apartment as a TRH during the summer when she’s not living in Madison?
No. TRHs can only be operated in the primary residence of a home owner, or a tenant if explicitly allowed in the lease.*

Is there a limit on how many guests I can host in my TRH?
Yes. The limit depends on how many legal bedrooms the unit contains. The maximum number of guests is twice the number of legal bedrooms, up to a maximum of twelve guests. Do not count children under the age of 12 towards the maximum number of guests.

What is the definition of a legal bedroom?
Any habitable space in a Dwelling Unit, other than a kitchen or living room, that can be used for sleeping. It must have a door that closes the room off from other common spaces. The space must be within the dwelling unit thermal envelope. It must be at least seventy (70) square feet in area, exclusive of closets and other appurtenant space. It must meet the standards for egress, light and ventilation according to the UDC, Wis. Admin. Code chs. SPS 320-325, or the Uniform Multifamily Dwelling Code, Wis. Admin. Code ch. SPS 366. A den, library, study, office, dining room, or other extra room that meets this definition is a legal bedroom.

How do I keep the required registry? Do I ask guests to sign themselves into a registry book?

The registry is a paper or digital record available for on-site inspection. The registry must include all information from the current and prior registry year. The registry indicates:

  • the true name of the individual making the TRH reservation

  • their contact information

  • dates of stay

  • whether the operator was present or absent during the stay

What reports do I need to submit each quarter year?
Submit form ZTRHP-QR by email to which includes all advertising locations and registry information for the previous quarter year. Operator maintains and submits these records in paper or digital format. Excel spreadsheet template ZTRHP-QR may be downloaded and used for easy digital maintenance and reporting.?

How does my permit get renewed, and do I need to pay the application fee again each year?
You do not need to reapply each year and pay the $100 application fee again when renewing your permit. However, you must pay the $100 annual permit fee each year. A renewal payment notice will be sent by mail or email for the annual permit fee of $100. Adjustments to the TRH must be reported before renewing, such as changes to the floor plan, bedroom counts, etc. Renewal permit will be issued after changes are approved and payment is received. If a renewal permit is not issued by the end of the licensing year on June 30, the permit is no longer valid. All ads and reservations must stop as of that date.

What if my TRH guest ends up staying longer than 30 consecutive nights?
TRH regulations only apply to stays of less than 30 nights.

How do I share concerns or complaints about a TRH with the city?
Fill out our contact form or call (608) 266-4551. In the case of a life threatening emergency, dial 911.

* Certain provisions allow this if TRH only operates with night stays between seven and 29 consecutive nights. If host will never advertise or accept reservations for less than seven consecutive nights, ask zoning about the rules for this option.

Last Updated: 12/27/2021

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Permit & License Required

Currently, all TRH operators must have a valid TRH license from Public Health before advertising or renting out any short-term rental. As of 10/1/20, all operators must also have a valid Zoning Tourist Rooming House Permit (ZTRHP).


Remember - If you are unsure, ask the Zoning Staff

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