Second bill proposing to override local short-term rental bans advances

Published 6:03 pm Friday, February 23, 2024

The General Assembly has advanced a second bill that would restrict localities’ authority to restrict certain types of short-term rentals.

SB 544, which passed the Senate in a 25-15 vote on Feb. 9, would nullify local ordinances that outright prohibit or require a special use permit for the short-term rental of an accessory dwelling unit attached to or on the same property as an owner-occupied residence. Sen. Lamont Bagby, D-Richmond, is sponsoring the bill, which as of Feb. 23 had passed the House of Delegates’ Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns in a 13-9 vote.

A separate House of Delegates bill, HB 1461, passed the House 75-20 on Feb. 13. The House bill, sponsored by Del. Candi Mundon King, D-Dumfries, would nullify any local ordinance that bars renters from offering their apartments as whole-unit short-term rentals “solely on the basis that the operator is a lessee or sublessee,” provided the building’s landlord has granted permission. If said permission is granted, the short-term rental operator would be required to register the unit as a short-term rental annually, and localities would be authorized to adopt an ordinance imposing a fine of up to $500 per violation for operators who fail to do so.

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Isle of Wight and Surry counties’ House representatives – Dels. Nadarius Clark, D-Suffolk, Kim Taylor, R-Petersburg and Otto Wachsmann, R-Sussex – joined 36 Democrats and 36 Republicans in advancing the bill, which has crossed over to the Senate and is awaiting a vote in that body’s Committee on General Laws and Technology.

Seven Republicans previously joined Democrats on Feb. 9 in supporting Bagby’s bill. Three Democrats joined Sen. Emily Jordan, R-Isle of Wight, and 11 other Republicans in opposing it.

Isle of Wight County, in December, replaced an ordinance that had allowed the rental of up to two bedrooms in an owner-occupied house to two unrelated people with one that repealed a de facto ban and established a regulatory process for the whole-unit rentals that have become popular on websites like AirBnB and Vrbo. Isle of Wight’s ordinance, which requires the county to send written notice by certified mail to the last known address of the proposed rental’s neighbors, doesn’t distinguish between the short-term rental of accessory structures and whole-house rentals. If any neighbors object in writing within the 30-day notice window, the proposed rental would be required to go through the process of obtaining a conditional use permit, which requires public hearings and votes by the county’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

Short-term rental operators, under Isle of Wight’s ordinance, are required to pay an annual $35 registration fee. Failure to register within 30 days of advertising would trigger a $500 penalty for each day past the deadline the property remains unregistered.