Arlington County Board Refines Short-Term Rental Regulations

Published on January 28, 2017

  • Permits both owners and renters to offer short-term rentals in primary residence

  • Removes limits on contracts per night

  • Applies to rentals through services such as Airbnb, Craigslist, VRBO, etc.

The County Board today approved a Zoning Ordinance amendment that revises recently adopted accessory homestay regulations. The amendment allows renters, in addition to homeowners, to use their dwelling for accessory homestays in their primary residence, where they live for at least 185 days per year. It also removes the limits on contracts per night.

Accessory homestay allows for short-term rentals of homes to lodgers for stays less than 30 days. The regulations apply to rentals through services such as Airbnb, Craigslist, VRBO and others.

"These changes mean that renters, and not just homeowners, will be able to participate in this popular short-term rental trend," said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. "The community weighed in on this, and the Board listened. The result is regulations that provide equitable opportunities for those wanting to rent their dwelling while providing necessary protections for neighbors."

Nothing in the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance would pre-empt the rights of a condominium association or apartment building management to prohibit or limit accessory homestays in their properties. An individual could also write such a restriction into a rental contract for their property. If they permit accessory homestays, however, they must meet the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance.

The revisions stem from an extensive public outreach process that took place from October through December, 2016. As part of its action on December 10, 2016, the County Board adopted accessory homestay standards and advertised these two revisions that were not part of the original scope.

The Board voted 5-0 to adopt the Zoning Ordinance Amendment. View the staff report for the January 28, 2016 County Board Regular Meeting.

Revised Building Code determination

In a related action, Arlington's Chief Building Official has revised his initial interpretation of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (Statewide Building Code) and the zoning office has issued accessory homestay permits to multi-family dwelling applicants who meet all the zoning requirements.

In December 2016, preliminary research indicated that while accessory homestay is permitted in multi-family buildings under Arlington's new zoning regulations, it may not be allowed in most existing multi-family buildings under the Statewide Building Code. Multi-family transient lodging buildings have different standards than single-family detached houses or multi-family residential buildings for fire protection, accessibility, accessible parking and means of egress.

Further research, including discussions with other building officials around the state, concluded that the best fit for accessory homestay use is under the Statewide Building Code's apartment/condominium use. Therefore, the Chief Building Official determined that accessory homestay permits are permissible to multi-family building applicants who meet the zoning requirements.


Prior to December 2016, the use of private homes for short-term rentals was not permitted by the Zoning Ordinance. The new regulations were adopted to allow the use in a manner that protects the character of residential neighborhoods; ensures health and safety measures are in place; and regulates and limits the use in a manner consistent with the County's Comprehensive Plan. The regulations were developed based on a review of practices in other jurisdictions in Virginia and throughout the country, and with input from the community.

Arlington's accessory homestay regulations became effective on December 31, 2016. Residents may host overnight lodgers in their primary residence on a short-term basis (less than 30 days). Residents who wish to obtain an accessory homestay permit may submit an application to Zoning Administration. No fee is required at this time, however, fees are anticipated to be proposed as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which becomes effective July 1, 2017.

For more information about Zoning Studies in Arlington, visit the County website.