Short-Term Rental Regulations in Fairfax County

By Kevin Burke

Image result for airbnb logoAs of October 1, 2018, Fairfax County began regulating the short-term rental of individual homes on a short-term basis. Typically, such short-term rentals use on-line services like Airbnb or VRBO to advertise availability. Hence the regulations are often called the “Airbnb rules.”  

The rules are controversial. For example, the Virginia House of Delegates considered legislation this year that would have prevented the County from regulating short-term lodging. The bill stalled in the State Senate but may be taken up in future sessions of the legislature. In the meantime, several residents of the County are suing to prevent implementation of these rules, but for the time being they remain in effect.

Prior to issuing the regulations, the County’s role in limiting or directing the use of private homes for short-term lodging was ill-defined and largely ineffective. However, some County residents were concerned about increased traffic and parking problems in their communities and the proliferation of unknown temporary residents. As a result, homeowner associations and individual citizens have complained to the County Board of Supervisors for several years that neighborhoods were being disrupted by an influx of traffic from renters, that local parking was becoming more difficult, and that community services were being stretched. In addition, renters were complaining that rental units were inconsistently maintained. Consequently, to allow County residents access to the additional revenue from short-term lodging while also limiting the impacts on neighborhoods, the Board developed the comprehensive regulations.

The rules that the County promulgated were based on the local government’s planning and zoning authority. The County requires any resident who wants to rent part or all of the resident’s home for short-term lodging (defined in the rule as rental of a dwelling for fewer than 30 days) to apply for a Short-Term Lodging Permit at the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning. The permit is valid for two years and requires a payment of $200. 

The applicant agrees to a number of limitations on the rental of the dwelling (or part of it), including the following:

  • Not renting for more than 60 nights per calendar year
  • Not renting to more than 6 adults per night
  • Not renting to more than one group (i.e., no more than one rental contract) per night
  • Not renting the space in conjunction with any event that includes people other than the renters (e.g., a banquet, wedding, fund raiser)
  • Collecting a Transient Occupancy Tax with each rental contract
  • Providing the rented area with a fire extinguisher and interconnected smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors (when required for a fireplace or gas service)
  • Posting a plan inside the door of each sleeping room showing the pathway to the nearest exit
  • Having one designated parking space available for lodgers.

In addition, the applicant must be a permanent resident of the property being rented. The regulations allow homeowners associations to restrict or prohibit short-term rentals, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to show that the rentals conform to the rules that govern the dwelling in question.

For further details, please see the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning website.

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