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Richmond Puts New Regulations on Airbnb, Other Short-Term Rentals

building with Airbnb sign outside
The city is also requiring short-term rental operators to live in the home for 185 days each year. (Photo Courtesy of Airbnb)

Richmond City Council approved new rules for residents looking to rent out their homes on sites like Airbnb and VRBO.

The new ordinance came out of a year-long public engagement process by the Department of Planning and Development Review. Short-term rentals have been illegal under local law, but under the new ordinance, property owners can list with sites like Airbnb if they pay an annual $300 permitting fee. That fee would go toward a 3rd-party monitoring program. The city is also requiring short-term rental operators to live in the home for 185 days each year.

Mark Olinger, who heads Richmond’s Department of Planning and Development Review, said operators objected to the residency rule, but without it, enforcement would be near impossible.

“The introduction of commercial enterprises, particularly non-primary residents’ commercial enterprises, into residentially zoned districts is a stand that we are not supportive of at this time,” Olinger said.

The city’s Department of Planning and Development Review began crafting the regulations for short-term rentals after localities were granted that power by the General Assembly in 2017. Public input meetings and surveys on the draft regulations were conducted in early 2019. 

Olinger has said the regulations address two main concerns: public safety and affordable housing. 

The regulations limit the number of people who can be in a short-term rental and require property owners to have fire extinguishers and emergency exits. Last year, the floor of a Church Hill Airbnb collapsed after more than 100 people attended a house party there.

The requirement that the home be the primary residence of the person renting it out could also help prevent the short-term rental market from gobbling up affordable housing in the city.

According to Host Compliance, a private firm that contracts with localities to oversee short-term rentals, approximately 750 properties in Richmond were listed on sites like Airbnb and Expedia. A survey conducted by the city earlier this year found that 62 percent of residents agreed short-term rental should be regulated.