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  • Scott Westfall

The Short-term Rental Laws in Virginia Beach

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

In this post, we will cover all the current rules and regulations for short-term rentals in Virginia Beach. Read on to discover who is allowed to rent their properties on a short-term basis, as well as what you need to do to maintain your short-term rental status.

CGP Real Estate breaks down the rules and regulations for Short-term Rental Properties in Virginia Beach, VA.

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What is considered a Short-term Rental in Virginia Beach?

For those who are new to the subject or just need a quick refresher, the city of Virginia Beach defines a short-term rental property as: “An entire dwelling rented for less than thirty (30) consecutive days for compensation.”

Home sharing, when a room in an owner’s residence is offered for rent for less than 30 days by the owner, does not count as a short-term rental in this coastal region.

Can I legally operate as a Short-term Rental in Virginia Beach?

The most recent ordinance changes passed by City Council only allow certain property owners to operate or start operating their properties as short-term rentals (STRs). To be eligible, your property must meet one of the below criteria:

  1. Be located in the Sandbridge Special Service District

    1. Properties in Sandbridge may operate as STRs “by-right” as long as they meet the regulations and obtain an annual zoning permit.

  2. Be located in the OR (Oceanfront Resort) Short-term Rental Overlay District

    1. Oceanfront Resort properties need to obtain a conditional use permit before operating as an STR.

    2. Once approved for a CUP, these properties must also obtain a separate annual zoning permit.

  3. Be grandfathered in

    1. Grandfathered properties must have been registered with the Commissioner of Revenue and pay transient occupancy taxes before July 1, 2018.

    2. Grandfathering runs with the land and is valid until the property ceases to be run as an STR.

  4. Have an approved short-term rental conditional use permit (CUP) that was obtained before September 7, 2021

    1. All conditional use permits expire five years from the date of adoption. CUP renewal is overseen by the Planning Department and will require the property to be compliant with all regulations and codes.

    2. If a property has a CUP, it may be subject to other regulations and restrictions in addition to the ones listed below.

If your property does not fall into one of the four categories above, you are PROHIBITED from operating as a short-term rental in Virginia Beach. Homeowners may, however, ask the city to allow short-term rentals in their property’s neighborhood through this petition process.

Own a short-term rental in Hampton Roads? Impress your guests by adding a link to these top things to do in Virginia Beach this season in their confirmation email!

What rules and regulations are there for my Short-term Rental Property in Virginia Beach?

To legally run a vacation rental in Virginia Beach, your property must meet certain regulations. Here is a list of these requirements (per City Zoning Ordinance Section 241.2):

  1. Parking: Your property needs to have 1 parking space per bedroom. Stacking of vehicles in a driveway counts, so long as each spot is 9ft. wide and 16ft. long If you don’t have that, you’ll need to draft a parking plan and have it approved by the Zoning Administrator. (By the way, street parking DOES NOT count.)

  2. Events: If you or those renting your property want to host a gathering of between 50-100 people, you’ll need to get a special event permit. Each property is only allotted up to three of these permits per calendar year.

  3. Responsible Party: You or the operator of the property must provide the name and phone number of a responsible party who is available to address concerns at the property within 30 minutes. You don’t need to respond in person.

  4. Signage: The annual zoning permit you need to get each year requires you to post a 4-square-foot sign on the property identifying the building as a short-term rental home. Aside from that, the only signage allowed are architectural signs naming the structure.

  5. Taxes: To maintain your property’s eligibility as a vacation rental property, you’ll have to keep your taxes and registration with the Commissioner of Revenue’s office up to date.

  6. Posted Notices: You are also required to provide a copy of the approved parking plan and a summary of city code (provided by the zoning administrator) somewhere where your guests can easily locate it.

  7. Trash: Trash must be kept in automated (weekly pickup) refuse receptacles.

  8. Number of Rental Contracts: You’re only allowed to accept up to 2 rental contracts within 7 consecutive days.

  9. Maximum Occupancy: A maximum of three individuals are allowed per bedroom on the property after 11:00 p.m. and before 7:00 a.m.

  10. Liability Insurance: You must have liability insurance for $1,000,000 (yes, 1 million) on your property. Proof of insurance must be provided and kept with the Zoning Office.

  11. Noise: No outdoor amplified sound can be used on your property between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. Noise from your property shouldn't be heard inside adjoining residences.

  12. Fire Safety: Interconnected smoke alarms (these can be wireless), a fire extinguisher and carbon monoxide detectors (if your property uses natural gas or propane) are required to be installed in your short-term rental, “to the extent permissible under state law.” Open fires and fireworks are prohibited.

  13. Accessory Structures: Accessory structures - like a converted detached garage - can’t be used or occupied as short-term rentals.

  14. Annual Zoning Permit: Whether or not a CUP is required for your rental property, all approved short-term rentals in Virginia Beach must apply and pay for an annual short-term rental zoning permit.

How do I get an annual Short-term Rental Zoning Permit?

All short-term rentals operating legally must maintain an annual short-term rental zoning permit. Here’s how to get a zoning permit for your Virginia Beach rental property:

  1. Complete an online or mail-in application

  2. Include a $200 fee with the application

  3. Submit a life-safety inspection report (conducted by the City Zoning Inspector annually, or a certified property management company every three years)

  4. If your property has exterior stairways, decks, porches, or balconies, submit a structural safety inspection report (conducted by a licensed design professional every three years)

What penalties do I face if my Short-Term Rental isn’t compliant?

While the City Council can revoke permits and grandfather status, enforcement of the rules and regulations for short-term rentals throughout Virginia Beach is primarily the responsibility of the Zoning Department. They have the authority to levy fines directly (without going through a court process).

If your property is not compliant or is operating illegally, you can be hit with a zoning violation fine of up to $200. Commit another offense and the price goes up to $500.

And if your property has “grandfather status,” that can be revoked by City Council if regulations are breached, neighbors complain, or the overall square footage of the building is increased by 25% or 1,000 square feet (whichever is less). This can also happen if the property remains vacant or isn’t used as a rental home for two years.

Property owners in violation will have 15 days before their hearing to bring their rental homes into compliance. If you lose grandfather status, you won’t be able to operate that property as a short-term rental any longer.

The Bottom Line

The short-term rental regulations finalized by the Virginia Beach City Council in September 2021, bring quite a bit of red tape to both starting and operating a rental home in the area. Whether you are maintaining or hoping to start a vacation rental business, it’s important to stay informed.

Have questions about operating short-term rentals in Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads? Connect with our associate broker and local short-term rental expert Scott Westfall today.


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