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The Short Guide to Short-Term Rentals: Norfolk, VA Edition

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Short-term rentals have become increasingly popular with Hampton Roads visitors and a big source of income for local property owners. Many guests in the Hampton Roads area are finding accommodations on websites like AirBnb.com, HomeAway.com, and Tripping.com, instead of staying in traditional hotels and resorts. In 2018, Airbnb hosts in the City of Norfolk alone generated 4.5 million dollars of revenue and hosted 31,000 guests. Unsurprisingly, in light of the prevalence of this type of lodging and, like many nearby Virginia localities, Norfolk has enacted local legislation governing properties that serve as short-term rentals.

To comply with Norfolk’s short-term rental regulatory structure, a host must:

1. Ensure that the number of guests occupying the short-term rental is limited to 2 guests per bedroom and 10 guests total.

2. Have a certain amount of off-street parking spots available, depending on the number of bedrooms available as short-term rentals and whether the property is considered a “homestay” or a “vacation rental.” If the property owner remains on the premises during the entire rental period, the rental property is a “homestay.” Homestays must provide one off-street parking space for every bedroom provided for rent, regardless of the location of the property. If the property owner doesn’t remain on the premises during the entire rental period, the property is considered a “vacation rental.” Vacation rentals must provide a certain amount of parking spaces per bedroom, depending on which “character district” the property is in:

Character District

Number of Required Parking Spaces
Downtown0.5 spaces per bedroom
Traditional0.67 spaces per bedroom
Suburban1 space per bedroom
Coastal1.2 spaces per bedroom

3. Register the property by completing an online registration application found on the City’s website. This registration process requires an owner to provide proof of liability insurance that covers injury to property guests of no less than $300,000 and a photograph of the off-street parking area provided with the rental. Once completed, it typically takes 5-10 business days for the registration application to be processed.

4. Obtain a Zoning Permit. Once the registration application is approved, the property must pass a fire safety inspection. When the City Planning staff receives proof of the fire inspection, the owner will receive a Zoning Permit. The Zoning Permit is valid for two years and must be renewed in order to operate the short-term rental within Norfolk city limits. Once the Zoning Permit is obtained, a zoning inspection must be scheduled and completed.

5. Obtain a business license. The host must have a separate business license for each rental property. The license costs between $50-$75 and must be renewed annually.

6. Collect an 8% transient occupancy tax and a $3 per night room tax during each rental. The taxes must be reported and paid to the Commissioner of Revenue on or before the 20th day of the month following the month of collection.

Notably, Norfolk neither limits the number of different rental contracts within a certain time period nor prohibits short-term renters from having a large gathering, event, or party at the property. There is also no special event permit required or limitation on how many large events can be held at the property per year. This means that short-term rentals in Norfolk can be used for weddings, receptions, or other events.

Comparatively, Norfolk’s short-term rental regulations are less stringent overall than those in neighboring localities. For example, in Virginia Beach, short-term landlords are required to obtain at least $1 million in liability insurance, post a summary of the applicable Code Sections in the home, and accept no more than 2 rental contracts every 7 days.

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