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Homestays and Short-Term Rentals (Lodging) - Frequently Asked Questions

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Where are homestays and short-term rentals (STRs) allowed?

Are City inspections required?

Can I rent my basement or any room in my dwelling as a homestay or STR?

Are there vehicular parking requirements?

Is food service allowed?

Can the operator serve alcohol to guests?

Can the property be marketed and used for events such as, but not limited to, weddings, and receptions?

Are there other requirements?

What happens if I operate a homestay or STR without obtaining a SUP, or if I am found to be operating a STR in violation of SUP conditions or the Zoning Ordinance?

City Council has approved my SUP for STR, how do I establish the STR use and by when must it be established?

Who is exempt from the homestay and STR annual registration requirements?

My STR SUP was approved prior to September 8, 2020, do I have to annually register with the Department of Community Development?

Do I need to submit an annual registration for a homestay or STR or receive approval of a STR SUP if I am renting my residential unit for 30 or more days?

Do I need approval from my HOA or COA?

I believe my neighbor is operating a homestay or STR in violation of the Zoning Ordinance and/or conditions of their SUP, or my neighbor's STR operation is a nuisance to the neighborhood; who do I call?

 


Where are homestays and short-term rentals (STRs) allowed?

Homestays can operate in single-family detached, duplex, or townhouse dwellings in the following zoning districts:  R-1, R-2, R-3 (multiple), R-3 (medium), R-4, R-5, R-6, R-7, R-8, MX-U, B-1, and U-R. Homestays cannot be operated within multi-family buildings (apartments) or accessory structures. 

With an approved special use permit (SUP), STRs can operate in any dwelling type (single-family detached, duplex, or townhouse, or after physical renovations are completed, in apartments.) STRS are permitted in the following zoning districts:  R-1, R-2, R-3 (multiple), R-3 (medium), R-4, R-5, R-6, R-7, R-8, MX-U, B-1, and U-R. Accessory structures may be used as for STR unless restricted by a condition of the SUP.

Determine the zoning district of your property.

Note for multi-family (apartment) buildings in the B-1 district:  Existing multi-family structures (apartments) were most likely designed and built for non-transient, long-term tenants. However, by right, such structures can have both transient and non-transient units so long as Building Code requirements are met for both types of occupancy. If the Building Inspections Division of the Department of Community Development allows transient lodging in a multi-family structure (apartment building) or mixed use (residential and non-residential) building in the B-1 district, then Zoning would classify the lodging as a hotel/motel, and a special use permit would not be required for these buildings located within the B-1 district. Owners of multi-family structures (apartment buildings) wishing to operate transient or short-term rental lodging are encouraged to contact the Building Inspections Division at 540-432-7700 to confirm or to obtain the appropriate Certificate of Occupancy. 

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Are City inspections required?

City inspections of single-family detached, duplex, and townhome dwellings are not required as part of the process to annually register a homestay or STR or as part of the STR SUP requests. However, if during review of STR SUP applications, there are Building Code compliance issues found or discrepancies found between City records and the applicant's description of STR accommodation spaces within dwellings, inspections by the Building Inspections Division may be required. 

Apartment/multi-family units will likely require physical renovations, which will necessitate proper Building and trade permits and associated inspections.

For all types of dwellings, inspections by City Officials as part of investigations of potential violations may occur.

The completion of the STR Pre-Operation Form [93KB]PDF prior to beginning operations may be required by City Council as a condition of an approved STR SUP. This form is to be completed by the property owner or STR operator.

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Can I rent my basement or any room in my dwelling as a homestay or STR?

Only if the basement and/or any other non-traditional space converted to sleeping room(s) in association with the homestay or STR use complies with the most current building code requirements, including but not limited to providing a second means of egress such as an emergency egress window. Questions about current building code requirements should be directed to the Building Inspections Division of the Department of Community Development at 540-432-7700.

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Are there vehicular parking requirements?

No for homestays.

Yes for STRs. STRs are to provide and to delineate one off-street vehicle parking space (a parking space to be located on the property) for each bedroom or accommodation space, unless conditioned differently by the SUP. During the SUP process, applicants (operators) may request City Council’s consideration to require fewer parking spaces or to not require delineation. On the other hand, City Council may require more off-street parking spaces than the on space per bedroom or accommodation space minimum.

For both homestays and STRs, operators are encouraged to direct guests to park on the property or in front of the property if using the public street for parking. Operators living in communities with a homeowners association or property manager are encouraged to contact them to inquire about where guests should park. 

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Is food service allowed?

Yes, limited only to guests. A Virginia Department of Health Lodging Permit may be required to serve STR guests. Food service may be subject to the City's Food and Beverage Tax, please contact the Commissioner of Revenue's Office at 540-432-7795 to inquire. 

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Can the operator serve alcohol to guests?

The operator should contact Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Board to inquire about permit/licensing requirements. Alcohol sales may be subject to the City's Food and Beverage Tax, please contact the Commissioner of Revenue's Office at 540-432-7795 to inquire. 

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Can the property be marketed and used for events such as, but not limited to, weddings, and receptions?

Homestays cannot be marketed and used for events. 

If STR operators wish to be able to accommodate such events, such plans must be specified as part of the SUP process and described in the applicant's letter. Accommodating such events would likely require physical renovations or other improvements to the property per the Building Code. Applicants (operators) wishing to market and use the property for events shall include information about planned events with the SUP application. If such events are desired, the applicant is highly encouraged to speak with city staff regarding such plans prior to submitting the application.

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Are there other requirements?

Operators shall comply with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code and Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code. If there are questions about these specific requirements, contact the Building Inspections Division of the Department of Community Development at 540-432-7700.

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What happens if I operate a homestay or STR without obtaining a SUP, or if I am found to be operating a STR in violation of SUP conditions or the Zoning Ordinance?

Per Section 10-3-13 of the Zoning Ordinance, operators of STRs found in violation shall receive a civil penalty of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 of each subsequent offense arising from the same set of operative facts. If civil penalties total $5,000, the violation may be prosecuted as a criminal misdemeanor. 

Advertising and/or taking reservations for a STR without an approved SUP is a violation of the Zoning Ordinance. 

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City Council has approved my SUP for STR, how do I establish the STR use and by when must it be established?

The Zoning Ordinance requires that whenever a SUP is approved by City Council, the special use authorized must be established within 12 months from the approval date of such permit, unless a condition stated a different time period. To establish the use, most operators will have to register the STR with the Department of Community Development (see Annual Registration).

Some operators are exempt by the Code of Virginia from the homestay and STR annual registration requirements. To establish a use, operators have to complete one or more of the following: (1) receive approval of a business license with the Commissioner of Revenue’s Office, (2) list the short-term rental for rent online or other method within one year, (3), have a reservation made (even if cancelled) within one year; or they may voluntarily choose to submit a homestay and STR annual registration to the Department of Community Development. 

Operators are encouraged to keep documentation of any or all of the above to prove that the STR has been established. 

*Note: Operators who were approved for a STR SUP prior to September 8, 2020 should contact the Planning & Zoning Division of the Department of Community Development for additional guidance as options to establish the use are different.

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Who is exempt from the homestay and STR annual registration requirements?

Section 15.2-983 of the Code of Virginia exempts the following operators from having to register with the City; operators who are:

(i) licensed by the Real Estate Board or is a property owner who is represented by a real estate licensee;

(ii) registered pursuant to the Virginia Real Estate Time-Share Act (§ 55-360 et seq.);

(iii) licensed or registered with the Department of Health, related to the provision of room or space for lodging; or

(iv) licensed or registered with the locality, related to the rental or management of real property, including licensed real estate professionals, hotels, motels, campgrounds, and bed and breakfast establishments.

While these operators are exempt from the annual registration, they are not exempt from following zoning regulations and are not exempt from receiving approval of a SUP, when necessary. 

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My STR SUP was approved prior to September 8, 2020, do I have to annually register with the Department of Community Development?

This City's authority to require annual registrations is a general power granted by the Commonwealth of Virginia and not related to zoning and land use. The 2020 registration is waived for STRs that received their SUP approval prior to September 8, 2020. These STR operators must begin registering in 2021 and each year after. 

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Do I need to submit an annual registration for a homestay or STR or receive approval of a STR SUP if I am renting my residential unit for 30 or more days?

No. Registration of homestays and STRs and STR SUPs are only required for rentals of less than 30 consecutive days per calendar year. (Property owners still must comply with Zoning Ordinance Occupancy Regulations for renters living there for more than one month in succession.)

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Do I need approval from my HOA or COA?

Virginia Code § 15.2 110 prohibits the City from requiring consent from an HOA/COA prior to the issuance of any permit, certificate or license. However, it is your responsibility as the homestay or STR operator to ensure that your operation complies with any restrictive covenants on your property.

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I believe my neighbor is operating a homestay or STR in violation of the Zoning Ordinance and/or conditions of their SUP, or my neighbor's STR operation is a nuisance to the neighborhood; who do I call?

Please contact the Planning & Zoning Division of the Department of Community Development at 540-432-7700. 

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