Hotel/Motel/Short Term Rental Licensing

Hotel or Motel

A building or group of buildings in which the public may obtain accommodations for a consideration, including, without limitation, such establishments as inns, motels, tourist homes, tourist houses or courts, lodging houses, rooming houses, summer camps, apartment hotels, resort lodges and cabins and any other building or group of buildings in which accommodations are available to the public, irrespective of whether membership is required for use of the accommodations, except accommodations rented for a continuous period of more than one (1) month and accommodations furnished by any hospitals, sanitariums or nursing homes, or by corporations or associations organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable or educational purposes provided that no part of the net earnings of such corporations and associations inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. 


Short Term Rental or Lodging Marketplace

Homeowners or other individuals who make rooms or lodging available to the public for periods less than one month, must report and pay Wisconsin sales tax on such rentals. One month means a calendar month or 30 days, whichever is less, counting the first day of the rental and not counting the last day of the rental. This includes the short-term rental of a home, room, apartment, cabin, inn, motel, or any other building in which accommodations are made available to the public. A provider of short-term lodging in Wisconsin must collect/remit Wisconsin sales tax on such sales if it holds a Wisconsin seller's permit or its taxable sales for the calendar year exceed $2,000. 


The City of Onalaska allows Short-Term Vacation Rentals in certain zoning districts provided the following standards are met. The following standards are summarized with full language in Section 13.02.68.R. of the Unified Development Code. Property owners must obtain a Transient Room Permit from the City Clerk’s Office and report and pay Wisconsin sales tax on rentals. In the event Short-Term Vacation Rentals do not follow the proper standards or the requirements of the Transient Room Permit, the City may shut down Short-Term Vacation Rentals until the property comes into compliance.


General Standards for Short-Term Vacation Rentals:

  1. Maximum number of overnight guests: 2 multiplied by number of bedrooms available for rent, plus 1 guest. (i.e., a 3-bedroom rental formula: 2 x 3 = 6 +1 = 7 total guests)
  2. “Events” are not allowed to be hosted by transient guests on the premises. An event is a gathering on the premises of more than three unregistered guests.
  3. All garbage must be kept in rubbish containers that are stored out of view of a public street.
  4. No signage pertaining to the short-term vacation rental is allowed on the property.


Dwelling Standards:

  1. Dwelling must be connected to City sewer and water services.
  2. Rooms available for rent for sleeping must have proper egress windows and working smoke detectors.
  3. Guests must have access during their stay to a full bathroom facility (sink, toilet, tub/shower).
  4. Accommodation of guests are not allowed in recreational vehicles, tents, fish houses, accessory structures or other similar structures.


Property Owner/Manager Standards:

  1. The property owner must disclose in writing to their guests the following rules and regulations. This disclosure must be conspicuously displayed in the home:If the property owner does not reside at the residence, the owner/manager must be located within 30 miles of the residence. Property owner must provide the City the name, address, phone number and email address for local manager of property.
    1. The name, phone number and address of the owner/manager.
    2. The maximum number of guests allowed at the property.
    3. The maximum number of vehicles allowed at the property and where they may be parked.
    4. Noise levels be reduced between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. and that this will be enforced by the Onalaska Police Department.
    5. Property rules related to use of outdoor features, such as decks, patios, grills, recreational fires, saunas and other recreational facilities.
  2. If the property owner does not reside at the residence, the owner/manager must be located within 30 miles of the residence. Property owner must provide the City the name, address, phone number and email address for local manager of property.
  3. A guest record must be maintained, including the name, address, phone number, and vehicle license plate information for all guests. Guest record must be provided to the City upon request.



Zoning:  Questions regarding your properties' current zoning may be directed to the City of Onalaska's Planning / Zoning Department at (608) 781-9590

License: Hotels, motels and short-term rentals are required to obtain a Transient Room Permit under City of Onalaska Ordinance Sec. 7.06.13.  The link for the fillable Transient Room Permit Application is below. 

Transient Room Permits run from July 1st of current year through June 30th of the following year.  An applicant can apply for a Transient Room Permit for either one or two years and must be renewed upon expiration.

              Transient Room Permit Fees:                     $25.00 one year

                                                                                  $30.00 two years

Room Tax: Hotels, motels and short-term rentals are required to collect room tax at a rate of 8% of the gross receipt from such retail furnishings of rooms or lodgings. See the City Clerk for a room tax certificate. Room tax imposed for each calendar month is due and payable on the last day of the month next succeeding the calendar month for which it was imposed. You are encouraged to call the City Finance Department ((608) 781-9530) to discuss the reporting requirements for Room Tax.

State of Wisconsin-Department of Revenue: More information regarding room tax and State of Wisconsin and local municipalities ability to govern hotels, motels and short-term lodging is available at the following links: