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

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Every day, short-term rentals play host to international visitors around the world. Whether for business or pleasure, short-stay accommodation websites like AirBnB.com, HomeAway.com, Tripping.com, and more have replaced traditional motel and hotel stays for many travelers of all ages. Naturally, because this type of lodging is coordinated by individuals and can generate substantial income, state and local governments have sought to regulate and tax these properties since their inception.

A city, county, or other locality containing short-term rentals may subject hosts to ordinances and regulations that coincide with the existing zoning or administrative codes of the area, as well as require host to comply with various licensing and registration practices before allowing individuals to list homes or rooms for short-term stays. In Virginia, localities, rather than the state, set and enforce these rules for operation. Most recently, Richmond, Virginia has enacted local legislation governing properties that serve as “short-term rentals”.

To comply with Richmond’s new regulatory scheme, a host must:             

    1. Obtain a Certificate of Zoning Compliance (CZC) for Short-Term Rental (or Short-Term Rental Permit), which requires the payment of a $300 that covers administrative, monitoring and enforcement costs. Each certificate is valid from January 1st until December 31st of the following year, regardless of when the certificate is issued. The host must obtain and renew this certificate in order to operate a short-term rental property within the Richmond city limits. In addition, any advertisements of the property must include a valid CZC posting.
    2. Own the property that it is offering as a short-term rental. The property must be the host’s “primary residence”, meaning the host resides there for at least 185 days each calendar year. In other words, creating a short-term rental from either (i) a property that you are current leasing from a landlord, or (ii) a property at which you do not reside for at least 185 days each year, would violate the new regulatory scheme.
    3. Ensure that the number of guests occupying the short-term rental is limited to two adult renters per available “sleeping room”. While the new regulations only loosely define the term “sleeping room”, the regulations do cap the amount of possible “sleeping rooms” for a specific property at five. There may be additional occupancy limitations, but a short-term rental host would need to consult the specific building and zoning codes for the property in question.
    4. Ensure that the property or rented space complies with the Virginia Residential Construction Code and fire extinguisher provisions, and that carbon monoxide detectors are present in all bedrooms, kitchens, and any other room used for cooking or sleeping.
    5. Ensure that the short-term renters do not create or permit a large gathering, event, or party at the property consisting of attendees that are not occupying the “sleeping rooms” of the property. This means that a short-term rental cannot be used for weddings, receptions, or other events. There are additional permitting requirements under different regulatory structures for these types of events.

Notably, Richmond does not:

    1. Place restrictions on “hosted” versus “unhosted”, though the regulations do refer to the distinction. A whole house rental constitutes an unhosted stay since the short-term renter is temporarily granted the right to make use of the entire house without the host being present. Conversely, a hosted stay is the rental of a room or a portion of the residence with the host remaining in residence for the duration of the stay. Within the Richmond city limits, there is no requirement for a host to remain on site, thus permitting both hosted and unhosted stays of short-term guests.
    2. Require a short-term rental host to provide or ensure adequate (or any) parking for a guest or guests throughout their stay.

The attorneys at Vandeventer Black LLP stand ready to assist you should you have any questions about how to comply with short-term rental regulations or how to best protect yourself as a short-term rental landlord.

See what our legal team can do for your business.

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