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Norfolk Short-Term Rental Permit: How to Get One in 2021

Updated: Feb 2

Regulations for short-term rental properties in Norfolk, VA, and how to obtain a rental permit in Norfolk in 2021.


Though the City of Norfolk in Virginia passed a law to regulate short-term vacation rentals in October 2018, the new legislation didn’t get nearly as much publicity as a similar piece passed by the neighboring City of Virginia Beach a few months later. Even now, over a year later, property owners in Norfolk are still learning about the regulations and attempting to get their rental homes in compliance.


With the city’s main goal being regulation and collection of taxes, Norfolk took a slightly more lenient approach than Virginia Beach in regulating short-term rentals. The initial application process was developed to be “easy and free,” though some necessary steps in the permit process do involve fees. The regulations affect all short-term and vacation rental properties including those marketed through Airbnb, Vrbo, and other home-sharing platforms.


According to the City of Norfolk, a “vacation rental” (or short-term rental) means different things in different areas. For the most part, it's defined as “a property for rent for fewer than 30 consecutive nights when the owners of the property are not staying in the home.” If you live in the Coastal Character district (shown in green below), the property rented cannot be the owner's primary residence.



Homestays, or situations where a homeowner lives on the property and rents out a single room, are not considered a short-term rental under the law. Though these properties are not bound by the short-term rental permit process, owners should still check out the city’s regulations for homestays.


To operate as a short-term rental property in the city of Norfolk, you must:


1. Have the correct number of paved off-street parking spaces per bedroom based on your “character district” or location in the city. They need to be 8x18 feet and on your property. And if you share a driveway with your neighbors, you'll need to include your consent with your registration application. Here’s a quick guide to how many parking spots you’ll need depending on where in Norfolk your property lies:

2. Maintain a maximum occupancy of 2 per bedroom.

3. Maintain a limit of 10 guests at one time.

4. Have liability insurance, covering injury to a guest on the property, of no less than $300,000.

5. Register and be approved for a short-term rental permit by the City Zoning and Planning Department, or obtain a conditional use permit.* 6. Pass a fire safety inspection.

7. Pass a zoning inspection.

8. Obtain a business license from the City Commissioner of Revenue.

9. The name and contact info of an emergency contact for the property must be posted inside and on the exterior of the property, along with the City's call center info.


*As of 2021, certain properties in the Coastal Character District must obtain a conditional use permit in order to be rented out. These include:

  • Single-family homes with 4-5 bedrooms

  • Properties without the required parking spaces

  • Multi-family properties that have 4+ units

Unlike the Virginia Beach Short-term Rental Laws, homeowners may not start renting their properties out on a short-term basis until they have received both a conditional-use zoning permit/registration permit and a business license from the city.


Let’s take a look at how to get those permits, inspections, and licenses.


Norfolk Short-Term Rental Permit Process

Registering as a short-term vacation rental in the City of Norfolk is pretty straightforward. With the exception of two separate inspections of the property, the entire process can be done online.

1. Apply online (for free) for your short-term rental permit through the Zoning and Planning Office.

  • You can have a real estate consultant walk through the process for you - just provide a signed letter authorizing that professional to apply on your behalf.

  • Be sure to have a copy of your liability insurance documents and a photo of the off-street parking.

  • If you're renting a duplex or triplex, you'll need one application per unit.

  • You’ll need the assessor’s parcel number of your property. It’s easy to find by entering your address into Norfolk AIR and clicking on your property.

  • Expect this process to take 5 business days or so.

  • If you need a conditional use permit, these do have a hefty fee and take a few months to process. You'll also need to schedule a mandatory pre-application meeting with the Planning Department. Find more info here.

2. Once your application is approved, the next step is to call and schedule a fire inspection of the property with the Fire Marshal’s office.

  • This inspection costs $50 to $75.

  • Prepare to have ignition sources, electrical hazards, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors checked.

  • Email proof of your fire inspection to STR@norfolk.gov.

  • Check out this guide to prepping your property for a fire inspection.

3. The City of Norfolk’s Zoning and Planning department will issue you with a zoning or short-term rental permit, valid for 2 years.

4. After being awarded your Short-Term Rental Permit, schedule a zoning inspection.

  • You must have a permit to schedule this inspection.

  • If you don’t schedule your inspection, your permit could expire prematurely.

5. With your zoning permit, apply for a business license for each property.

  • This license costs $50-$75.

  • You need your zoning permit before you can apply for a business license.

6. Once you are awarded your business license, you are now in compliance.



THE BOTTOM LINE

The process for getting a permit for your short-term rental in Norfolk isn’t an arduous one, but it is important to make sure you’re complying with the local laws.


Still have questions? Call CGP Real Estate Consulting today. We help investment property owners in Norfolk, Virginia through the entire short-term rental application process.



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