Loudoun supervisors have approved a new rule requiring owners of short-term residential rentals such as those listed on Airbnb or VRBO to register with the county government.
The county board has been working toward regulation and oversight over short-term residential rentals since last year, and the question has divided supervisors. Those in favor of the registry have argued it puts those rentals on a level playing field with traditional hotels and bed-and-breakfast operations. Where before the county did not have a system for tracking those rentals, with the registry supervisors hope they can requiring those rentals to pay the same taxes and meet some of the same safety standards as other businesses.
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) has been the registry’s most vocal opponent.
“Before we put regulation on new industry, let’s look at the regulations from the old industry,” Meyer said. “It seems like to me a lot of those regulations are quite burdensome.”
Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) joined Meyer’s opposition Tuesday night.
“I think we started off down this path because we were worried—and I think legitimately so—about the conglomerates or the large scale enterprises where the owner would live in NYC, and the Airbnb would be able to accommodate 10, 20 people,” Umstattd said. “We’re now dealing with the registration of much smaller entities.”
But other supervisors pointed out the registry imposes no new taxes the businesses weren’t supposed to be paying already.
“I don’t like regulation either, necessarily, but most of what we had in place … were really there for safety,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).
“[Transient Occupancy Tax] is really one of the least egregious taxes there is, because it’s mostly paid for by people who don’t live in the jurisdiction,” said board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn), referring to a tax on overnight stays such as at hotels or bed-and-breakfasts. Travelers staying overnight in Loudoun pay a 7-percent tax if they are staying in lodging that accommodates four or more people.
Those businesses are also required to pay the county’s business, professional, and occupational license tax. Those renting out fewer than seven bedrooms and showing less than $4,000 gross receipts are exempt. With seven or more bedrooms and up to $200,000 gross receipts, businesses pay a $30 license fee, and above that, 23 cents per $100 of gross receipts.
The new ordinance requires a free annual registration, with a penalty of $500 for renting out a property without registering, up to $5,000 total. Violating the registration requirement would also prohibit registration for one or two years, and violating more than three state or local laws and regulation would prohibit registration for one year. The new rules will go into effect July 1.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) also addressed arguments Meyer made at the board’s previous meeting that Visit Loudoun’s involvement was unethical, in part because some of the organization’s board members work in the hospitality industry.
“They are very much seen as a quasi-arm of the county, so to say that there was anything untoward or unethical being done in Visit Loudoun or anyone on the Visit Loudoun board, I believe was not fair,” Randall said.
Supervisors voted in favor of the new ordinance 6-3, with Meyer, Umstattd, and Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) opposed.