Loudoun County government staff members have been set to work coming up with new regulations for short-term home rentals such as on Airbnb or VRBO.
County supervisors last year began requiring rental hosts—who in practical terms could operate free of regulation or taxation—to register with the county government. But according to a report from the Department of Planning and Zoning, even that did not make them legal. Because short-term residential rentals are not listed as a use in Loudoun’s zoning ordinance, they are not a permitted anywhere. Rental operators would have to conform to the regulations for other types of lodging, like traditional bed-and-breakfasts, which are generally only permitted in rural zoning districts.
Loudoun’s zoning ordinances are generally enforced only in the case of complaints, as illustrated in the recent case of a woman who began filing complaints about signs advertising at wayside stands and farm markets around western Loudoun. The owners of those signs, many of which had stood for years, began accruing violations, causing supervisors to scramble to find a way to make the law fit reality. Many business owners complained their businesses rely on that roadside advertising.
The county report also mentions the results of a survey of Loudoun residents, who indicated they preferred rental operators be required to obtain a zoning permit but should not be able to hold special events as part of that permit. Respondents also said they were concerned about parking, noise, traffic and the loss of a neighborhood’s residential character. They were split on whether rentals should be required to be the owner’s primary residence.
After a unanimous vote by supervisors July 18, county staff members will write a proposed update to Loudoun’s zoning governing short-term residential rentals. That is expected to regulate things like the maximum number of guests and rooms for rent per home, how often a property may be used for a rental, whether they should be able to hold events like weddings and parties, parking standards, whether owners must live there, and whether and how whole-home rentals would be permitted. The new regulations will also determine where in the county those rentals are permitted by right or through a special application review process.
That proposal is expected to be ready for a public hearing before the county Planning Commission in September.