VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Efforts are underway in the General Assembly to restrict a locality’s ability to regulate short term rentals. 

Two identical bills would do exactly that – Senate Bill 1391 and House Bill 2271.

Under the legislation, realtors become increasing important in the short-term rental debate, and a locality’s ability to restrict property managed by a Virginia Realtor  

It’s clear that if these bills pass in the House and Senate, a locality would not be able to restrict, by ordinance, any short-term rental property managed by a Virginia realtor.   

“It’s my neighborhood. I live here,” said North End resident Andy Cohen, who is also a member of the North Virginia Beach Civic League. They are concerned about short term rentals in their neighborhood.

“Short-term rentals in Virginia Beach and all over the state are a real problem and localities need the opportunity to regulate them in ways that makes sense to their own community,” Cohen said. 

So, Cohen became concerned when he read the Senate and House Bills that “provides that a locality may not restrict by ordinance any short-term rental property managed by a Virginia realtor.”  

Cohen thinks that gives a huge exemption to realtors.

“What they are doing is taking away the ability to manage locally,” Cohen said, “and these should be local decisions. Every locality in the Commonwealth has different needs and different priorities.” 

Those short-term rentals not managed by a Virginia realtor would continue to be regulated by the locality.

A local realtor offers a different perspective on the proposed bills.

“It’s good legislation, and showing the free enterprise system works,” said Greg Garrett, head of Garrett Realty Partners in Hampton Roads. “There is a lot more accountability with realtors because we are held to a code of ethics that homeowners are not held to, and even non-licensed realtors are held to.” 

The legislative bills also state the “locality may not enforce an ordinance against such property where the ordinance”:

  • Prohibits short-term rentals  
  • Limits occupancy in a short-term rental  
  • Limits the number rented days in a calendar year  

“There is no manager on site, so if a neighbor has a concern about noise or trash or any other problem it is very hard to find someone to contact,” Cohen said.

Garrett takes a different view. 

“Realtors have a history of decades of doing it right,” Garrett said, “of following the rules, the laws, and following property procedures to manage property … when cities and counties go beyond what they should to restrict the free enterprise system, and when they do it, the state steps in.”

Now the General Assembly can do that because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state. Dillon Rule localities operate under the assumption they can only wield powers explicitly authorized to them by the General Assembly.  

That approach has frustrated localities that wish to solve some of the most pressing problems for their residents, like short-term rentals, in their own way.