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Short Term Rentals in Richmond

01/09/2019 10:38 AM by

Inspired by a comment by one of our readers, Steve C. writes about short term rentals in Richmond. Watch for future articles by Steve with regard to Church Hill renovations and new construction.

Steve writes:

In response to a recent CHPN report, “AirBnB Party Gone Wrong,” reader MP inquired: “I thought full house short-term Air BNBs were illegal?”

Short term AirBnB rentals are illegal — at least that is the opinion of city officials at the Planning Commission. Such rentals “are currently not identified as a permitted use by the City’s Zoning Ordinance and are, therefore, prohibited.” [I will leave it to the reader to assess the validity of this reasoning.] The matter of regulating short-term AirBnB-type rentals came up recently at the regular January 7, 2019, Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission decided to revisit the issue soon (as will City Council). But in fact, such short term rentals have already been evaluated by the Planning Commission, in 2015.

Spurred, in 2105, by the UCI World Cup, the Richmond City Council directed the City’s Planing Commission “to conduct a study concerning the use of internet lodging devices in the city of Richmond” and “whether any . . . laws or regulations are necessary to address any issues created by the rental of real property through internet lodging services.” Included were instructions to investigate the general impact of such lodging, taxing such rentals as wells as zoning/parking/ traffic issues and health and safety issues. The planning Commission’s 2015 report can be found here.

Here are a few highlights from the 2015 Planning Commission report:

Much (perhaps too much) manpower would be required to effectively regulate such rentals.

Lodging taxes should be collected, but the sum will probably not be significant. (Such short term rentals “should not be viewed as a large revenue generator.”) As of 2015, sites such as AirBnB did not assist in collecting these taxes, except for large cities.

Current health regulations and fire regulations do not impact short-term rentals. However, it is possible that stricter building code requirements could kick in, which in some cases could mean that older homes would have to comply with current building code regulations. It also could mean the City might mandate inspections of property used for short term rentals.

The report spends a good deal of time looking at how other cities have handled these issues. The Commission seemed to be impressed by cities who spent time and effort hearing from the public before enacting laws and regulations. There are myriad possibilities and issues here.

Would a business license be required? Would the City conduct inspections and, if so, how often and at what fee? Would the renter/host be required to occupy the property during rental? (some jurisdictions actually require this). I would expect the issue to begin percolating to the surface in the next few months, perhaps this summer.


Steve Chaplin


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