The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Short-Term Rental in Norfolk, VA 
To begin operating a short-term rental property in Norfolk, Virginia, the first thing you’ll need is a short-term rental zoning permit. In this post, we’ll break down the registration and application process for you to make the permit process easy.
Is your short-term rental in Virginia Beach? Here’s Virginia Beach’s process for getting an annual zoning permit.
What is the difference between a vacation rental and a homestay?
Though both are considered short-term rental operations in Norfolk, Virginia, vacation rentals are defined separately from homestays. A vacation property is an entire home or unit available for guests to rent for less than 30 consecutive nights, and the owners do not stay on the premises during the rental period.
Homestays, or situations where a homeowner is present on the property throughout the rental period. Think “room-sharing” or renting out an individual room in your house. These properties still need to go through the Norfolk short-term rental registration process, but there are a few differences in the requirements. (Check out our section below on these!)
What are the steps to starting a short-term rental in Norfolk?
Before you can legally operate a vacation rental in Norfolk, there are several items you’ll need to have in order. Here's what you legally need to start a short-term rental property in this city, which must be obtained in this order:
A property located in Norfolk, Virginia, that is in compliance with the city’s rules and regulations on rental properties
A Conditional Use Permit (where required)
A Short-Term Rental Registration Zoning Permit
Proof of a passed fire inspection of your property
A completed zoning inspection
A business license to operate a short-term rental
How do I know if I need a Conditional Use Permit?
Under certain conditions and in certain parts of Norfolk, you will need to apply for and obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to legally operate it as a homestay or vacation rental. We’ve outlined all the publicized conditions for this below. However, we still recommend scheduling a pre-application meeting with the Norfolk City Planning Department to be sure you’re applying for the right kind of permit for your short-term rental.
Here are types of Norfolk rental properties that require a Conditional Use Permit to operate:
Short-term rental properties with four or more bedrooms
Properties located in one of the following Zones: SF-T, SF-10, MF-NS
Units that are located in a multi-family property with four or more bedrooms total in the Coastal Character District or Zones R-C, SF-2, SF-4, or SF-6
Properties with three or more dwelling units located in the Costal Character District or Zone R-C or D
Properties that do not have the required amount of parking spaces
Conditional Use Permits can take up to 2-3 months to obtain - that’s if you are approved for one (there’s no guarantee). With the hefty $1,080 fee, you’ll want to make sure you're working with a local real estate expert who knows the process inside and out before you purchase your Norfolk investment property.
What do I need before applying for a Norfolk Short-Term Rental Permit?
Before submitting your application for a short-term rental zoning permit, there are a few things that you’ll need to have in order. You’ll need:
To confirm that your property meets all the requirements of Norfolk
Liability insurance of at least $300,000 that covers injury to guests on your property, including medical payments
A photograph of your off-street parking spots for the rental home
And, if you share a driveway, written permission from the owners of the adjacent properties.
How to apply for a Short-Term Rental Zoning Permit in Norfolk, VA
Once you own a property in Norfolk (and have been approved for a Conditional Use Permit if applicable), the next step is to apply to register your property and obtain your zoning permit. The permit application, scheduling of the inspections, and business license application can all be completed online. All steps must be done in the following order:
Apply online (for free) for your short-term rental permit through the Zoning and Planning Office. Have these things handy when you fill it out:
A copy of your liability insurance documents
A photo of your compliant off-street parking area
Written permission from the owners of the adjacent properties (if your property has a shared driveway)
The assessor’s parcel number for your property (found on Norfolk AIR by entering your address and locating the GPIN number)
*If you're renting a duplex or triplex, you'll need one application per unit.
Your application will either be approved or denied. Norfolk sends automatic emails through Host Compliance once applications are reviewed, so keep an eye out for this in your spam filter if you don’t hear anything within 10 days.
If your application is denied, you are not legally able to operate your property as a short-term rental.
If your application is approved, the next step is to call and schedule a fire inspection of the property with the Fire Marshal’s office. Once done, you’ll email proof to STR@norfolk.gov.
Check out CGP’s complete breakdown of how to pass the Norfolk fire inspection.
The City of Norfolk’s Zoning and Planning department will issue you with a zoning or short-term rental permit, valid for two years.
What do I do after I have my Zoning Permit?
You’re not done yet! There are a few more steps to complete after you receive your Norfolk Short-Term Rental Zoning Permit before you can begin operating legally.
Here are your next steps:
Schedule a zoning inspection. Do this right away, because without the inspection, your permit could expire prematurely.
With your zoning permit, apply for a business license for each property you’re going to rent out.
Homeowners may not start renting their properties out on a short-term basis until they have received both their zoning permit and a business license from the city.
Is the registration process for a homestay different from a vacation rental in Norfolk?
If you want to operate a homestay in Norfolk, you’ll pretty much follow the same process - with just a few tweaks.
Homestays may first need to get a Conditional Use Permit, just like vacation rentals. If there are four or more bedrooms total on the property, you’ll need a CUP. In all other cases, we recommend checking in with the Zoning Department just to be sure you won’t need one.
Here are some extra things you WILL need if registering for a homestay:
A photo of your driver’s license listing your primary residence
Written permission from the COA or equivalent (for homestays only, if applicable)
Here are a few things vacation rentals need that homestays DON’T need:
Remote entry with access codes for guests
Surveillance cameras in the parking and exterior common areas
Interior decibel meters
How long does the short-term rental registration process take?
If all your ducks are in a row, starting a short-term rental in Norfolk, VA isn’t a very lengthy process. The big determining factor in getting your operation up quickly is whether you need a Conditional Use Permit or not.
Conditional Use Permit: 2-3 months
Processing of Zoning Application: 5 -10 days
Fire and Zoning Inspections: Up to 1 month
Business License: 1-2 days
The required inspections are dependent upon the schedules of the fire marshal and zoning inspectors. These Norfolk departments have been able to knock them out within two weeks of the request being made.
Once you have all your documentation in place and your short-term rental is in compliance with the local regulations, you’re ready to get started! You’re free to start turning that house into a rental property heaven.
You can begin managing and renting out your vacation home or homestay. If you want to take advantage of all the perks (e.g. bigger profits) of self-managing your rental without the hassle of being on-call 24/7, try an alternative property management solution like Koti. If you want to be completely hands-off, check out some of the big traditional property management companies in Norfolk.
The Bottom Line
Though there are several steps to complete before you can legally start a short-term rental in Norfolk, Virginia, the City has outlined a clear path to getting your investment property up and running.
If you are considering buying a short-term rental in Norfolk, work with the experts at CGP Real Estate to identify the perfect property and invest with confidence- and get some great rental tips along the way.
Don’t miss any of the important short-term rental process updates or tips for Norfolk investors! Join CGP’s mailing list for local expertise and real estate news.