Virginia Beach tightens safety regulations for short-term rentals, lifts ban on new operators in resort area

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Those who rent their home using platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo across Virginia Beach now will have new safety regulations to follow, and those who want to start operating property as a short-term rental in the Oceanfront area now might have the chance.

On Tuesday night, Virginia Beach City Council voted 8-2 to allow property owners located in what is known as the “Oceanfront Resort District” to apply for a conditional use permit if they want to start renting to people for less than 30 days.

Councilwomen Barbara Henley and Sabrina Wooten were the dissenting votes.

In a closer split 6-4 vote, they approved a slew of new requirements for all current and future short-term rental operators, that include deck inspections in an effort to avoid collapses. Two such collapses occurred in Sandbridge last year.

It’s just the latest actions in what has become a perennial and frustrating issue in the coastal community.

Many homeowners in Virginia Beach rent their properties to vacationers — and have for years — but some neighbors have complained the rise of digital platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo have led to parking nightmares, out-of-control parties that sometimes ended in violence and an overall disruption to traditional owner-occupied neighborhoods.

Back in July, City Council banned all new short-term rentals outside of Sandbridge unless a majority of people in a specific neighborhood request to have short-term rentals in their community.

Tuesday night, Councilman Guy Tower led the charge to change course at least in the resort area, as he said people already know they are buying into an area with hotels.

Still, each new individual rental would have to receive approval from a majority of City Council.

The Oceanfront Resort Short-Term Rental Overlay district in Virginia Beach (Courtesy: City of Virginia Beach)

More controversial with those who operate short-term rentals currently: the additional safety requirements.

Moving forward, all short-term rentals will also be required to have a structural safety inspection report every three years, with the maximum occupancy for the deck posted in the rental.

All those operating a vacation rental without a professional management company will be required to have an annual zoning inspection completed by the city to look for at least one fire extinguisher, working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Professionally managed rentals by a certified company would face inspection every three years.

However, what really angered some was that outside the rental, the owner must now most a four square-foot sign that states the property is a short-term rental and have the contact number of the city’s short-term rental hotline.

“Why oh why are you even considering this?” Kendall Maynard, with the Virginia Beach Short-Term Rental Alliance, said in front of council. “Maybe I should put just a ‘Come rob me’ flashing neon sign.”

Others called it all “another overreach of government.”

“This is my home and with my home comes certain constitution rights,” Brandon Beavers, who also owns Oceanfront rentals, said. “So if the city wants to infringe on those with zoning, I think a judge will decide one way or other good bad and different.” 

Those who don’t follow the city’s regulations could have their “grandfathering” status of CUP revoked. Those found not operating “legally” can face a fine of up to $200 for the first offense and $500 for any additional.

Mayor Bobby Dyer, council members John Moss, Aaron Rouse and Sabrina Wooten voted against the new requirements for all current and future short-term rental operators.

Dyer commented that the issue was giving him “heartburn.”

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