Frequently Asked Questions


Yes, if you are earning income by renting your property as a short term vacation rental in the unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County, you must obtain approval from the Department of Planning & Building, obtain a business license from the Tax Collector's Office, and collect transient occupancy tax (also known as "hotel tax" or "bed tax") and other required assessments.

In many areas, garages may be converted into heated (living) space, but only after a permit has been issued. Residential building standards differ from storage building standards and school district taxes apply to living space.

Yes, you may hold two garage sales per year for two consecutive weekends a time.

You can run a small business out your home if you first get a home occupation license. You cannot sell retail out of the house, but you can have a small sign with external illumination. You cannot change the residential character of the neighborhood, nor increase traffic, noise or odors to be more than would be expected for a residential use. No employees are allowed unless they are also residents of the home. A home occupation cannot take away from the required two off-street parking spaces, so you must be able to park two cars on your property, either in a garage or on the driveway.

County residents in unincorporated areas can now call (805) 723-2500 and speak directly with the on-call officer.  The on-call hours will be:

Friday                  5 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Saturday              8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Sunday                8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Holidays               8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

This service will allow people to report violations such as unpermitted grading, work that is causing environmental damage, unpermitted temporary events and violations of event conditions.  

Please note non-emergency code violation complaints will be addressed during normal business hours. On-Call Code Enforcement Officers will assess complaints for environmental and safety emergencies. Observed non-emergency criminal acts should be referred to the Sheriff's Department by calling (805)781-4550.

No more than 5 gallons may be stored in a residential area except in a self-propelled vehicle. In other areas, special permits are required for underground or large above ground tanks.

On residential properties, you may only store two vehicles outdoors, and those vehicles must not be visible from a public road. A stored vehicle is one that is not used for two consecutive nights. You may have as many vehicles as you wish stored in a garage. Vehicles under active repair (minor car work such as tune-ups) are not considered stored. Commercial vehicles may only be stored or parked on commercial properties - there is an exception for moving trucks and vans, which may park on residential property for as long as it takes to complete the move.

You may store one RV on your residential lot, but you cannot allow it to be lived in or used as an extra room. You must not store your RV in the front setback area, except for one self-propelled RV which can be stored in the driveway. RVs are not designed for long term living as they are made of very lightweight materials, have light gauge electric and plumbing and usually are heated with propane, a gas that is heavier than air and can puddle in low areas. Many deaths and injuries in this county have been attributed to people living in RVs.   If you want to live in an RV, you may only do so in a State approved RV or mobile home park.

The tree ordinance is different in the Coastal and Inland zones. There are also special area and tract standards. The information below is general in nature. It is safest to contact the Department of Planning & Building first with specific property information before cutting any tree on your property.

  • Coastal: no tree over 8” in diameter at 4’ from the ground may be removed or killed unless a permit is first issued.   A permit can only be issued if the tree meets certain criteria. If you feel you have a hazardous tree, or one that is damaging utilities or your house, please call us for an inspection.
  • Inland: within urban or village reserve lines, trees may only be removed or killed if they are on residential property, improved with a residential use. Permits for qualifying trees may be issued for proposed development and commercial lots, but inspections are first required.

All commercial temporary events require a special permit unless the event is donation only, and for a tax exempt charitable or public benefit organization. It is best to call us before scheduling such an event. Even if it is for a charity, if you are serving food, County Environmental Health may have regulations you will have to follow.

Yes, the County has a sign ordinance. It's purpose is to prevent the proliferation of signs and to help reduce visual pollution. In general, a sign is a device that directs attention to a product, service or organization. It can be a hot air balloon or a mural with a depiction of the product or service, even if there is no writing on it. No off-site signs are allowed. Commercial business are limited to the size of sign, and many developments have special sign requirements as part of their permit. Small real estate signs are exempt, as are political signs (small yard signs) for 30 days before and 2 weeks after an election. If you are starting a business that needs a sign, please check with Department of Planning & Building staff first to determine what kind and size of sign you can put up (some areas of the County have regulations on what kind of material the sign can be made from).

Fill out the administrative fine appeal form. The appeal must be written on this form and arrive with the deposit at the County of San Luis Obispo Department of Planning and Building, 976 Osos St., RM 200, San Luis Obispo, CA 93408, no later that 4:30 p.m. on the 20th day (inclusive) of the date of the Notice of Fine.

Most violations of county code involve improper outdoor storage, and most of these occur because the outdoor storage can be seen from the street or neighboring properties. It is strongly suggested that if you have a lot of items you wish to store, you put them in garages or sheds (sheds over 120 square feet require a construction permit). If you wish to storeitems outdoors, then screen the material with a wood or masonry fence that does not exceed 6’6” in height, with none of the stored items exceeding 5’ (except for single vehicles). You may not have any accessory storage on a lot that does not have a principal use (such as a house).

A substandard home is one that does not meet the minimum standards of the Uniform Housing Code or may be dangerous for other reasons. Typical health and safety issues include:

  • Lack of weatherproofing;
  • Lack of heating in habitable rooms;
  • Lack of adequate plumbing or sanitation;
  • Failed septic system;
  • Hazardous electrical connections;
  • Broken or missing banisters on a staircase with 3 or more steps;
  • Lack of smoke detectors;
  • Broken or sagging floors and ceilings;
  • Lack of a secondary exit (such as a window that can be easily reached) in a sleeping area;
  • Installation of a pressurized hot water heater in a bedroom;
  • Unpermitted structural work

If you are renting a substandard home and the landlord refuses to make repairs in a timely manner, please document all your contacts in writing, save all correspondence and inform Department of Planning & Building staff. Do not withhold rent without first contacting an attorney or consulting a tenant rights handbook.

This service is for the unincorporated county only. If you are reporting a violation in an incorporated city (i.e., Arroyo GrandeAtascaderoGrover BeachMorro BayPaso RoblesPismo Beach, or the City of San Luis Obispo), please check that city's website for contact information.

Animal Keeping Provisions (Partial List)
  Land Use Category
Animal Type RMF RSF RS RR
Birds, other than poultry (< 20) No permit required No permit required No permit required No permit required
Birds, other than poultry (> 20) Minor use permit required Minor use permit required Minor use permit required Minor use permit required
Fowl or poultry Not allowed 1/500 square-feet (1/3000 square-feet for turkeys), no roosters except on sites greater than 2 acres surrounded by properties of greater or equal size 1/500 square-feet (1/3000 square-feet for turkeys) 1/500 square-feet (1/3000 square-feet for turkeys)
Cattle Not allowed 1/acre 2/acre 3/acre
Goats and sheep Not allowed 4/acre, minimum site of 1 acre 4/acre 4/acre
Hogs and swine Not allowed Not allowed 4 maximum on sites 5 acres or greater (2.5 acres or greater with permit) 4 maximum on sites 5 acres or greater (2.5 acres or greater with permit)
Horses Not allowed 1/acre 3/acre 3/acre; 4/acre on sites greater than 5 acres



Grading is complicated. It is always advisable to consult with a registered professional (architect or engineer) prior to grading. In general, 50 cubic yards of cut or/and fill, or 3 feet of fill or 2 feet of cut requires a grading permit. No grading or grubbing should be done within 50 feet of a creek or stream. No riparian vegetation (such as willow, cattails or other such vegetation) should be removed from a creek, stream or wetland. There are many other standards, so please consult with a registered professional or contact the Department of Planning & Building first.

A business license is required for all commercial operations (even home businesses).

With few exceptions, any structure over 120 square feet in size requires a construction permit (even if it doesn’t have a foundation). Unless you are doing minor repairs (fixing small amounts of drywall, replacing the glazing in a framed window, replacing a sink, commode, door, or installing a low deck without a open or closed roof) you will need to get a construction permit. Plumbing and electric work is very tricky and can result in damage, injury or death if not done properly. If you are working on your own house, you do not need to be a contractor. Our plan checkers and inspectors are very used to helping owner-builders, so don’t be intimidated by the process - in fact for many small projects, you can get a permit in an hour or less.