Fairfax County has put in place new zoning rules that for the first time will allow homes to be rented out as short-term lodgings, such as those advertised on Airbnb, VRBO and FlipKey.
The Board of Supervisors adopted the new regulations on July 31.
Until now, the county’s zoning rules didn’t permit homeowners to offer these kinds of rentals, although officials estimate there are at least 1,500 active, online listings for short-term lodging in the county. Previously, the regulations only permitted transient occupancy – that is rentals shorter than 30 days – in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts.
“This decision was not an easy one,” said Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova. “There were many factors to consider and various ways the county could go about regulating or restricting. Through today’s decision, the Board of Supervisors aimed to strike the right balance between allowing short-term rentals to operate in Fairfax County under certain circumstances, while protecting the character and quiet enjoyment of residential neighborhoods in Fairfax County. I believe reasonable regulations – especially involving parking requirements, the number of days a home can be used as a short-term rental throughout the year and the number of visitors allowed per stay – offer a good compromise for hosts and nearby neighbors alike.”
The county decided to update its zoning rules because a state law passed last year affirmed local governments’ authority to regulate this type of use.
The rules will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2018. Starting on that date, short-term lodging operators must apply for a new $200 two-year zoning permit.
The regulations don’t bar homeowners or community associations from prohibiting short-term lodgings within their subdivision or development.
Short-term rentals will be allowed in single-family homes, townhouses, condos, mobile homes and apartments with limitations that include:
- Owners or renters must be permanent residents of the property they offer for short-term lodging. This limitation is to prevent businesses from operating multiple, full-time rentals, like a hotel or motel, in residential neighborhoods.
- Properties may be rented for 60 days per calendar year.
- Guests would be limited to six adults, the lodgers must all be associated with the same rental contract and only one contract per night is allowed. This is to prevent multiple rentals of a property by unrelated groups at the same time.
- Operators must identify an authorized agent, who will be available in addition to the operator, to address problems that arise while a property is being rented.
- Operators must have one designated parking space available for lodgers.
- Regardless of where posted, advertisements must include an operator’s short-term lodging permit number and identify the location of the required parking space and any other available parking.
- Properties may not be rented for events or commercial purposes like parties, weddings or fundraisers.
- Properties must be made available for inspection by county code enforcement inspectors upon request, and properties must comply with state building safety rules.
Despite the estimated number of short-term rentals operating to date, the county has received only 80 complaints about short-term lodgings.
Short-term lodgings will generate new tax revenues since operators must pay transient occupancy taxes. As an example, county leaders calculate that these rentals would generate approximately $428,268 in transit occupancy taxes a year based upon the estimated 1,500 active listings. Of this amount, $249,823 would go to the county’s budget fund and the remaining amount would be used to support tourism and regional transportation as required by state law.
Zoning officials engaged in extensive public input to develop the proposed rules. They received more than 7,600 responses to an online survey; held four community meetings across the county; and met with individual homeowners and civic groups, tourism professionals, real estate agents and representatives from the short-term lodging and hotel industries.
County staff also participated in a workgroup with other local jurisdictions that are considering or have adopted regulations, including Arlington County, Alexandria and Loudoun County.
For more information on the new zoning regulations, including permit requirements, contact the Fairfax County Zoning Administration Division at 703-324-1314, TTY 711.