The rental of rooms in a dwelling unit for less than 30 consecutive days is typically referred to as a “short-term rental.” Short-term rentals (STRs) are usually marketed and booked through online platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO and Homeaway, and are often generically referred to as “Airbnbs” regardless of the offering platform. STRs are not currently identified as a permitted use in the City of Richmond’s Zoning Ordinance, and therefore, are prohibited unless permitted for special use. In June 2015, Richmond City Council passed a resolution directing the Planning Commission to propose changes to the zoning ordinance that would allow STRs. Consulting the Regional Tourism Office and the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission on best practices, City staff have proposed draft legislation to permit and regulate STRs.
Though at least 750 STRs operate in the City, in 2018, the City’s Zoning Division only received four complaints about STRs. This suggests that the community is comfortable with existing STR operations, and STRs are a desirable allowed use in the City. City staff has published proposed regulations and has been seeking feedback through the public engagement process.
Highlights of the proposed regulations include:
- STRs will be permitted as an accessory use in any zoning district that permits residential uses and in all types of dwellings including accessory dwelling units.
- Property owners and tenants of dwelling units may operate STRs provided the dwelling is the operator’s primary residence−defined as “occupied for at least 185 days per year.” Owner approval for tenant-operated STRs is required. Condominium or co-op board approval is required for condominiums and co-ops.
- STRs are limited to operation for a maximum of 180 nights per year.
- For multi-family and mixed-use zones, the lesser of nine dwelling units or 25% of the total number of dwelling units may be used as STRs.
- The operator is not required to occupy the unit during a STR, but must provide the City with a phone number accessible 24 hours per day.
- No additional parking requirements are proposed.
- STR operators will be required to obtain a Certificate of Zoning Compliance (CZC) for Short-Term Rental every 2 years. The fee will be $300. The CZC approval number is required to be posted on all advertisements of the property.
- Operators in multi-family properties and single family properties of four or more bedrooms will be required to pay the City’s 8% transient occupancy tax for the rental.
Staff is scheduled to introduce the regulations as an ordinance to City Council in September. From there, the regulations will be presented to the Planning Commission and City Council for approval, which will include public hearing process. If you are an operator of a STR or constituent who supports the STR industry in the City, the regulations as proposed may have an adverse impact on the current STRs market. We will continue to monitor the evolution of the proposed legislation and are available to answer any questions you may have about the regulations or STRs more generally.
Kristen M. Chatterton