County Seeks Input on Short-term Residential Rental Regulations

Published on October 15, 2016

  • Engagement, feedback opportunities before Dec. 10 Board Meeting

  • Affects rentals through online services such as Airbnb, Craigslist and others

  • Goal to protect Arlington's neighborhoods, ensure public health and safety

The County Board gave the greenlight today to develop zoning regulations for short-term residential rentals, also called "accessory homestays." The Board will hold a public hearing and vote on the subject at its Dec. 10, 2016 Regular Meeting. New regulations would be in the form of amendments to the County Zoning Ordinance and include defining and establishing standards for such rentals.

 Hundreds of short-term rental listings for Arlington appear on such websites as Airbnb and Craigslist. The County Zoning staff have fielded complaints about short-term rentals as well as inquiries from residents who wish to host short-term rentals under established County regulations.

"Like other localities in the Commonwealth, and based on community demand here in Arlington, we're moving forward to develop regulations for these types of rentals," said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. "We urge people interested in this topic to join the process over the coming weeks. We need input from all our stakeholders to help inform and shape the regulations we adopt."

Before the Dec. 10 Board Meeting, as part of the public engagement plan, the County is seeking input on proposed key elements of the short-term residential rental regulations from Arlingtonians, advisory groups, commissions and businesses. In addition to public meetings, staff also plan to collect input online. Check the community outreach schedule on the Short-Term Residential Rentals project webpage and sign up to receive updates.

The Board voted 5 to 0 to advertise the hearing at its December Meeting as well as a Planning Commission hearing on the subject on Nov. 30.

Read the Board report for Item No. 31 on the Agenda for the Saturday, Oct. 15 County Board Meeting.

Key elements in draft regulations

 The draft Zoning Ordinance amendments address such short-term rental aspects as:

  • zoning districts for short-term residential rentals

  • owner occupancy and primary residence requirement

  • parking space requirements

  • area of dwelling unit allowed

  • application and permit requirements

  • short-term residential rentals in accessory dwellings

  • maximum number of short-term rentals in each multi-family building

  • maximum number of guests


In 2016, the Virginia General Assembly passed a heavily amended bill that would have limited local government's ability to enact or enforce any local zoning laws affecting short-term residential rentals. In effect, the bill (SB 416) as introduced would have permitted this type of activity in any zoning district.

The legislation also kept the identity of short-term rental properties hidden from state and local governments and precluded local governments from collecting and auditing transient occupancy taxes, as is done for any other lodging property.

Although a version of the legislation passed in the 2016 session, it did not become law and was referred to the Virginia Housing Commission to study and create draft legislation for consideration in the 2017 session. The Virginia Housing Commission has created the Short-Term Rental Work Group for this purpose.