Do I Need a Business License for a Rental Property?

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Rental properties are an amazing business opportunity. They give landlords the option to boost their investment portfolio while keeping the control they want over these properties. However, what many property owners fail to recognize is that they are required to both register their properties and obtain specific business licensing for their rentals. 

One aspect of these business licenses that makes things complicated for property owners is that they are not a one-size-fits-all model. Mainly because the business license requirements often vary state by state. If you are considering renting out your property in either Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland, this blog is for you. This post will detail which of these states require a business license and how this can impact your renting abilities.

Washington, DC 

In Washington, D.C., you need a basic business license to rent properties within the District. This business license is required for each location you plan to rent. No matter if it is a four-unit apartment rental or even a basement that you are planning to rent out to a local college student. You still need to obtain a business license. 

Even though the process is slightly different depending on how many units you are renting out. The necessary steps are the same. To obtain this license, landlords need first to check the zoning map and make sure they are compliant with zoning regulations and do not owe more than $100 to the District. Once those aspects are cleared up, these landlords can begin the process of obtaining their business license. This undertaking includes the following guidelines:

  1. You will need to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy from the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).
  2. Register the business with the Office of Tax and Revenue.
  3. Fill out the Basic Business License application online. 
  4. Register to get a housing inspection, which makes sure your building is up to code. Without this inspection, your Basic Business License may be revoked. 
  5. File with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DCHCD), to register as a rent-controlled unit or ask for an exemption.
  6. Wait for forms to get approved and inspection to be complete.

Navigating the DCRA and these other various offices to obtain your basic business license can be a tedious and overwhelming process for anyone. Plus, one mistake on a form can result in costly denials or delays. If you are looking for assistance with this procedure, consider hiring an experienced real estate property management team that can help walk you through this undertaking and ensure the job is done correctly.


There is no state-wide statute in Virginia for business licenses. Yet, local cities and counties may still have regulations and requirements that ask you to obtain these business licenses before you can rent out your properties. If you are planning on renting out a unit, an apartment, or even a private dwelling, check your specific local ordinances to see if there is a basic business license required.

However, there are two regulations that landlords in Virginia need to abide by. They include The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, and The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code.

  • The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act applies to landlords who are renting out more than two residential units. This Act establishes the obligations and rights of landlords and tenants. 
  • The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code applies to all rental units that a landlord wants to rent out. This Code contains the building regulations and standards that a building must comply with.
Businesswoman signing over a rental property after receiving a business license.


Maryland does not require you to have a business license. However, individual cities and counties may have this requirement. For instance, Ocean City right now does require a business license if you want to rent out your properties. According, to their ordinance, any person who engages in any business, activity, or occupation in the Town of Ocean City, Maryland, must first obtain a license for that business. 

If you are considering renting out any of your properties in Maryland, make sure that you check your local area if a business license is required. Failing to do so can leave you subject to violations. Which ultimately can have you facing stiff fines and penalties. 

Why Are Business Licenses Required? 

Many landlords only see these business license requirements as a tedious process requiring additional funds from them. Yet, attaining this license can protect these landlords. Especially if issues arise. These licenses can shield your property, tenants, and personal assets.

Being a landlord can provide you with financial freedom. However, it is crucial to set yourself up to reach this success from the beginning. This means having the necessary permits and licenses complete. Otherwise, you are putting your assets and the safety of your tenants in jeopardy.  If you want to ensure that all the necessary documents are correct and finalized. But, you do not have the time to research these various laws and requirements. Working with a real estate property management company may be the answer you need. 

If You Want to Rent a Property, Work With the Experts

So do you need a business license for your rental property? Unfortunately, the answer is it depends. Not only do these regulations vary by state and city, but the process is not always the same. 

Regardless, if you are planning on renting a property in Washington, D.C., Virginia, or Maryland, you should consider obtaining the assistance of an experienced real estate property management company you can count on. These rental property laws are complicated to understand. And one wrong move can leave you facing hefty penalties, long delays, and even expensive denials.If you would like to get a better handle on these business license laws or want assistance with navigating any other aspects of your rental property, talk to a property manager that can help you through this process from start to finish. Before you decide to rent out your properties, contact Nomadic Real Estate. Let us provide you with the help you need, the resources you can trust, and the expertise that you can count on.

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