- Will allow short-term rentals through online services such as Airbnb, Craigslist, VRBO, etc.
- Short-term rentals will be permitted as “accessory homestays”
- Effective December 31, 2016
- Hundreds in community provided feedback on proposed regulations
The County Board today approved new Zoning Ordinance regulations that define a short-term residential rental as a new home occupation called “accessory homestay,” and creates standards for this use. The regulations affect short-term rentals through online services such as Airbnb, Craigslist, VRBO and others.
The use of private homes for short-term residential rental was not previously permitted by the Zoning Ordinance. The new regulations include limitations to protect the character of residential neighborhoods; ensure health and safety measures are in place; and regulate and limit the use in a manner consistent with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The amendment was developed based on a review of practices in other jurisdictions in Virginia and throughout the country, and with input from the community.
“Like other jurisdictions, Arlington is adapting to the rise of the sharing economy. The extensive input we received about short-term rentals throughout this engagement process was essential to help shape new regulations,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “Indeed, we have re-advertised a small section of the new code in order to be able to vote next month to include some of the very good suggestions we heard. Today’s decision will help promote positive and safe experiences for renters, rental owners and their neighbors.”
In recent years, rental services in the online marketplace have become more prevalent in Arlington, and nationwide. In recent months, the zoning office has received both complaints about short-term residential rentals, and inquiries from residents looking for a legal path to host this type of use in their homes.
The Board voted 4-1 to adopt the Zoning Ordinance Amendments. County Board Member John Vihstadt was the dissenting vote. To view the staff report, scroll down to Item No. 36 on the Agenda for the December 10, 2016 County Board Regular Meeting.
Defining accessory homestays
The new use is defined as a home occupation called “accessory homestay,” and allows an owner to rent out his/her home for lodging purposes on a short-term basis. The purpose of the regulations is to:
- Protect the character of Arlington’s neighborhoods;
- Reduce barriers for those who are, or intend to, use their homes through online services for short-term rental (e.g. Airbnb, Craigslist, etc.) in a legal and responsible manner;
- Implement safety requirements to ensure that a short-term residential rental property complies with zoning, building, fire and other safety codes that are designed to protect public health and safety, property values and neighborhood character; and
- Provide a mechanism for enforcement of this type of use if problems arise.
The amendment would not preclude a condominium or homeowners’ association from establishing its own rules about allowing (consistent with County regulations), further restricting, or prohibiting this type of activity.
Standards for allowing accessory homestay:
- Allowed in units used by the owner as his/her primary residence (the owner occupies the unit at least 185 days of the year)
- May use the entire home, including accessory dwellings
- May host the larger of either six lodgers, or two lodgers per number of bedrooms in the unit per night (but no more than allowed by Building Code), so long as all guests are included on a single contract
- Will not be allowed in detached accessory buildings
- All Building Code requirements must be met
- Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and where applicable, carbon monoxide detectors, must be provided and accessible to all overnight lodgers
- Does not authorize use of the home for any other commercial use such as parties, banquets, weddings, meetings, charitable fund raising, commercial or advertising activities or any other gatherings for direct or indirect compensation
The County Board also authorized an advertisement to consider allowing accessory homestay in units used by either the owner or a renter as his/her primary dwelling, and to consider removing the limitation on the number of contracts per night. The Planning Commission will consider these additional amendments on January 17, 2017 and the and County Board will consider them on January 28, 2017.
The new regulations will become effective on December 31, 2016.
Owners who wish to obtain an accessory homestay permit will be directed to complete an application form (pending) that will be submitted to the Zoning Division with required documentation of ownership and primary residency.
No fee is proposed for an accessory home permit at this time. Fees may be proposed as part of future fiscal year budget processes.
The County Board authorized advertisement of the proposed amendments at its October 15, 2016 meeting. The advertisement was prompted by the 2016 Virginia General Assembly’s consideration of legislation that would have precluded local governments from regulating this use, bringing state-wide attention to consideration of how short-term residential rental services are or should be regulated.
Staff has conducted a broad outreach process to better understand community sentiment on this issue, and to help inform recommendations. An online feedback form was developed as part of the project’s comprehensive webpage where 379 people submitted feedback. A Public Open House was held on November 2 and a Virtual Q&A was held on November 3.
The Zoning Ordinance amendments were reviewed by the Zoning Committee of the Planning Commission, Housing Commission, Civic Federation, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Commission and Commission on Aging. The Transportation Commission and Planning Commission also held public hearings and voted on the amendments. All comments received are available on the project webpage.
For more information about Zoning Studies in Arlington, visit the County website.