The Pocono Geography Puzzle – Understanding Who Regulates Short-term Rentals in the Poconos

Short-term Rentals (STR) in Pennsylvania are regulated by the local municipalities. Pennsylvania has three official forms of municipal governments, cities, townships, and boroughs. Municipalities have the right to restrict this use of a home through Zoning and they have the right to regulate STR through local ordinances and licensing processes. To give you a sense of the scale, there are 2,560 municipalities in the 67 counties of Pennsylvania. When we refer to the Poconos, we focus on four counties (Monroe, Pike, Wayne and Carbon) with the heart of the Poconos being Monroe County having 16 townships, 4 boroughs and no cities.

When it comes to looking for a property to use as a STR, it is wise to explore the rules and regulations defined by each municipality. Those rules are usually posted on municipal websites, and I do my best to maintain a list of these in my Pocono STR Municipal Scorecard. Most municipalities in the Poconos now have STR Ordinances and the few that still don’t are likely discussing it.

It gets a little more complex when you look at real estate listings on Zillow, or my Pocono STR Hotlist you see towns that aren’t municipalities. When the Zip Code system was set up, the post office used villages and census-designated places that do not readily align with municipal boundaries. Many of the names of these “post offices” are not recognized local governments, but some are. The zip codes (post offices) for some are named after a municipality, but that service area may go well beyond the municipal boundary. Compounding this are the use of these used villages and census-designated places on maps and highway signs.

Here are some examples of post offices that are not the names of municipalities:

Lake Harmony
Long Pond
Pocono Summit
Pocono Lake
Pocono Pines

Here are a few municipal designations whose mailing addresses cover a wider area than the municipal boundaries:
East Stroudsburg
Mount Pocono

When you see a real estate listing, most often it is listed with its mailing address which includes post office, not its legal address which includes its township. If you investigate the listing in detail, you will likely see the municipality designated.

Some examples:
Pocono Farms is in Coolbaugh Township, zip code is Tobyhanna, PA
Locust Lake Village is in Tobyhanna Township, zip code is Pocono Lake, PA
Emerald Lakes is split between Tunkhannock Township and Tobyhanna Township, zip code is Long Pond, PA
Arrowhead Lake is split between Coolbaugh Township and Tobyhanna Township, zip code is Pocono Lake, PA

Google Maps does a good job of outlining the township borders, so to get better acclimated with the area, use the township name on your map search and you can see township borders. If you have not used the map feature of Airbnb, you can zoom into streets and see the locations of listings. Then in a different tab you can start to understand the subtle differences that the municipal rules and regulations might be having on rentals and that may help you understand the market better.

Knowing the rules and understanding the licensing is a key part of your due diligence when considering a STR investment. Making sure you are looking in the right place for this makes it a whole lot easier. Just like gossip on Facebook forums, my Scorecards should be indicators in your search, not taken as fact. The facts come from the municipalities (townships) and these facts change over time. Rules and Regulations adjust over time, so even after you buy, I suggest you keep current with the activities of your local government as it can affect your STR Business.

If you come across any updates to the STR-friendly Community Scorecard or the Pocono STR Municipal Scorecard, please send us a message and we’ll look into it.

Published by markshayrealtor

I believe helping you find a home is all about the fit, finding a home that fits your needs today, and sets you up for the future. I walk my customers through the many steps needed to find the right fit for a property that they can use as an investment, a vacation home or as their primary residence. I found my way to the Poconos looking for the perfect vacation home. I purchased a nice sized tract of land near Blue Mountain Ski Resort, where I built a home and continue to develop the land. I think of the area as both a great place to live and a great place to vacation. My vacation home has been successfully running as a short-term rental for a number of years and I have turned that experience into my real estate specialty, helping people buy vacation homes they can run as a short-term rental.

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