Short-term rental; affirms rights of localities to regulate rental of property. (SB1579)

Introduced By

Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Moneta)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Short-term rental of property. Affirms the rights of localities to regulate the short-term rental of property, defined as the provision of space suitable for sleeping or lodging for fewer than 30 days. If a locality allows short-term rentals, the locality shall require that the person offering property for rental notify adjacent landowners in writing, obtain local permission to offer the property for rental, and carry a minimum of $500,000 of commercial premises liability insurance. If a locality prohibits short-term rentals, any person or entity, including an online hosting platform, that advertises the availability of a short-term rental in the locality shall be subject to a $10,000 fine per violation. Read the Bill »


02/02/2017: Incorporated into Another Bill


01/20/2017Presented and ordered printed 17100686D
01/20/2017Referred to Committee on Local Government
01/23/2017Impact statement from DHCD (SB1579)
02/02/2017Committee amendments
02/02/2017Incorporated by Local Government (SB1578-Norment) (13-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)


Vicki Welsh writes:

Regarding this bill I have several comments.

It is clear that this bill is specifically drafted for Airbnb rentals with the intended consequence of shutting them down completely. While I fully support the provisions to notify local authorities and to pay the proper taxes I believe that other aspects of this bill are mean-spirited and draconian for people just trying to earn a little extra money. Many people have been able to pay their mortgages through tight financial times thanks to opportunities like Airbnb. Isn't it better for the citizens of Virginia to be able to make income using the assets they have?

My three biggest concerns with this particular bill are:

- Notification. Is this notification requirement in line with any other business notification requirements? If I open a hair salon or CPA office in my home does the state set notification requirements or does the locality do it? What happens with this notification? If I notify my neighbors and one of them doesn't like it, for any random reason, what happens then? What if I live in Mr. Stanley's rural district and my next neighbor is a mile away? Do I still notify them? Why? If this bill is about letting localities regulate the businesses then why don't the set this requirement too? The need for this is going to be very different on the beachfront in Virginia Beach, in the city of Richmond and in the rural countryside. Leave this to the localities. Plus most suburban neighborhoods already have covenants in place that regulate this kind of business and that would completely negate the need for this provision at all. If you are going to insist on the provision then you really need to think it through more carefully. As it is now it brings up more questions than it answers.

- The fine is absurd. Again, shouldn't this also be regulated by the localities? They already have their own rules and penalties for not paying taxes. Why does this particular category of business have such a large and draconian fine? I get it. There are a lot of people on Airbnb who are not properly registered and not paying the proper taxes. Fine. That does need to be fixed. But is someone going to notify all of them before this bill is active or are you going to wait until it's inforce and send everyone a $10,000 bill? If the true spirit of this bill is to leave regulation of this business to the localities than do that. Don't just pick some arbitrarily high fine to slap on your citizens. I remind you again, many of the people doing this are doing so because they NEED the extra income. Do you think it's noble of you to add more stress to their lives? The goal is to get people to pay the proper taxes and this isn't the way to do it.

- Finally, have you considered the effect of this bill on vacation rentals like weekly rentals at Virginia Beach or Massanutten?

This bill reads like a mean spirited attempt by the hotel industry. I realize that Mr. Norment's interests in this case are with his hotel industry but maybe the rest of you can think of your constituents for once.

Cindy Frey writes:

First the bills are being fueled by Senator Norment's clear conflict of interest which involves his ownership in the hotel industry. So first and foremost he needs to be removed from any involvement in these proposed bills.
Secondly the fines are insane. Most owners of short term rentals don't make in one year the cost of the currently proposed fine. Let's keep in mind there are lesser fines associated with charges such as drug possession or driving under the influence. Shall we remind our legislators that a fine should certainly match a crime. I am not clear on what type of crime would be involved in home sharing? If there needs to be regulation or concern over proper taxes being levied that is certainly a fair and attainable goal and can be levied on individual home sharing companies such as Airbnb and Home Away.
Home sharing is a real and attainable way for your average working American who is living paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. The majority of customers who participate in home sharing eat at local restaurants and are often traveling in the State as tourists who contribute to local and State revenue.
Lastly, there are many businesses that are associated with individual homes. Businesses such as beauty shops, small bakeries, personal chef services, bookkeeping and accounting services, and a multitude of craft businesses. Will similar requirements be delegated to these businesses? If the concern involves zoning then all businesses associated with private homes should and must be held to similar requirements and fines.
If this is an attempt for the hotel industry to put the home sharing business out of business then let's call a spade a spade.
We live in a land of opportunity not a land of monopolies. Clearly Senator Norment and other hotel owners want to give Americans one option for overnight stays.
Our American Government is becoming too involved in our backyards and homes. We refer to America as the land of the free however when our Government wants to levy excessive regulations and fines in one's personal home and land we must ask ourselves are we really free?
Let's spend our tax money on imposing fines and regulations on true concerns in our cities and communities. Thank you for your time.

Judith Schlotzhauer writes:

As an owner of a house in Richmond which I rent through airbnb, I would like to add a few additional comments to those already posted. First, I am all in favor of a tax on these type of rentals, and I am happy to comply with registering. I think it only makes sense for short term rental properties to be a revenue stream for the localities in which they are located, in the form of a tax. Airbnb has said they would be happy to collect and pay these taxes. Secondly, I cannot see any reason for the rental of a house or part of a house as short term leases to not be legal. I rent an entire house, and for the most part, the types of people who stay in my house are not interested in staying in a hotel, so there is no competition there. By in large, my guests are families, often multigenerational, who want a house where they will be comfortable with their children, where they can cook and eat together, where grandparents, parents and children can visit together in one space. They come for weddings, graduations, family reunions, to visit relatives, to enjoy activities and sights in Richmond. By having a whole house available, I am offering an important service which a hotel cannot provide. My house is within walking distance of the Convention Center and V.C.U.. I have had groups from England, Germany, Australia, and every part of the U.S. stay at my house. They have come for conferences and work related reasons. Several times I have had religious groups stay while attending missionary conventions or other gatherings. On one occasion when I had a group of ministers staying there I observed a bible and a prayer book placed at each seat around my large dining room table. This type of communal gathering can not be accommodated when people are staying in several hotel rooms. Thirdly, This house is an important segment of my income. I am an artist who cobbles together my income from several different sources: selling my art work, teaching, and renting my house. My artwork is hung throughout the house. Not only has nothing ever been damaged because the caliber of people who rent short term is so high, but it gives me exposure to wide group of sophisticated people who always comment on how much they enjoy the art.
This brings me to my final point. Short term renters are not vagrants or wild partiers, or any kind of undesirables. Every single guest i have had in two years has been respectful of my property, clean, quiet, followed all the rules and enjoyed the neighborhood and our City. I feel very secure renting through airbnb as they screen the guests for me. We are both, host and guest, required to write reviews of each other at the end of their stay. All reviews are available to read, so we know who each other are before we enter into a transaction. It is my conviction that this type of rental serves the visitors and the City in a way that hotels do not, Rather than try to shut us down and threaten us with outrageous fines, Make short term rentals legal and let the localities benefit from the tax income.

Steven Brown writes:

My wife and I have used Airbnb across the country and around the world. It allows us to immerse in the culture and make connections with natives that know the lay of the land. I believe that people are basically good and honest. I'd say that my experiences with Airbnb prove this to be true. We now have friends from 18 different countries. Airbnb is a social media site. The "advertising" is not in the public domain. It is like minded people seeking inclusive travel experiences and (just as often) travelers seeking respite from long exhausting drives. Hosts provide invaluable site seeing and dining suggestions. I do not believe for a second that these hosts and these Airbnb guests impact the hotel/motel nor BNB industry. There will always be those who would never dream of allowing a stranger to stay in their homes. There will always be those who would never dream of staying in the homes of strangers. I read the newspaper and watch the news on television daily. I have never read nor seen any stories of Airbnb related crimes or negative neighborhood impacts related to Airbnb hosting. Many Airbnb accommodations have been rented hundreds of times with no incidents of thoughtlessness exhibited. Many Airbnb accommodations and hosts have repeat guests who have befriended them and appreciate their selflessness and inclusiveness. Localities will not only be missing out on a sorely needed revenue stream but will drive travelers(whose use of very affordable Airbnb accommodations frees up money to spend on other area attractions)to other localities that are more enlightened. I don't know 99% of the people living in my neighborhood. I don't know who they invite into their homes. None of their guests are vetted, unlike Airbnb guests. I have zero input in their hosting activities. This bill is a blatant discriminatory and cynical attempt to control what, by all measures, is a benign and enriching experience for all hosts and guests. Tommy Norments' interests in the hotel industry should disqualify him from any input in this area. Airbnb is here. The legislature can see the worldwide phenomenon that it is. The ONLY thing that held it up last session was the infrastructure for tax collection. Many legislators use Airbnb on their junkets. It's the future of travel and as benign as having your friends or family stay over. This toxic bill criminalizes activity that is beneficial to hosts, guests and communities.

Andrew Alwood writes:

Does our government want to make it easier or harder to grow the local economy?
This bill is deceptive in that, yes, we should want localities to have the right to regulate rental properties. There could be a local tax, for example, or other reasonable regulations.
But this bill includes unreasonable terms that are obviously meant to shut down the burgeoning economic activity of the 'share-economy', and thus to help the hotel industry competing with it.
Can anyone really say that this bill would allow fair competition? It seems clear that it aims to shut down the share-economy in our localities and limit the economic opportunities for residents and guests alike.
The fine proposed is an absurd amount. But it is also absurd to say that merely advertising a short-term rental deserves the fine. That is not consistent with other laws.
Additionally, the requirement to notify adjacent landowners seems inconsistent with other laws.

Please give this bill the serious criticism it deserves. There are reasonable ways to regulate the burgeoning share-economy that would be welcomed by the ones targeted by this bill. This bill is completely unreasonable and goes against the government's purposes to help the economy grow in a responsible way and to promote the quality of life for its residents.

Margaret Langston writes:

I am opposed to this bill. People will find ways to share living expenses whether it is by having roommates, pooling their resources by living with relatives, or renting a room through a reputable website. There's not a lot of difference in the impact on a neighborhood. I've had mostly interns and graduate students stay at my home for over two years, 30 to 90 days at a time (but sometimes less) and have never had a bad experience or complaint from neighbors. I report the income and pay taxes on it. Last year I was laid off, and would not have been able to pay my mortgage without the income from my paying guests. Commercial liability insurance? Give me a break. That doesn't even apply. If this bill passes, I will still rent my room, but not through an online portal.

Robin Lee writes:

I echo many sentiments expressed by prior posters. AirBnB has been an invaluable resource to use as a traveler, we have used it and always had a more unique and meaningful stay in places we visited, in the U.S. and abroad. It's true that it helps the local economies, as guests with a host from AirBnB are more likely to get personal recommendations, visit small businesses and Mom & Pops. Through economically uncertain times, this platform has made it easier and safer for the hosts and guests. If the state and/or localities would cooperate with AirBnB to develop logical integration for tax liability, how can this be reasonably deemed not worthy of legality? Like all other situations in our society, if actual crimes or incidents of public nuisance occur, these can be reported to authorities. As others explained, AirBnB guests are in general less of a liability than renting via another outlet, or assuming all our neighbors' friends and houseguests are model citizens. With AirBnB guests can be filtered by reviews and verifications, be required to pay a deposit, and so on. Hosts may even improve their properties for the purpose of providing a desirable AirBnB experience. Don't hold Virginia back with these bills. These bills are trying to make AirBnB virtually impossible for anyone but the wealthy people who live in a secluded mansion with no neighbors in sight and can afford $500,000 insurance policies. Or people who already own hotels... Those people are unlikely to book a stay with AirBnB, they are unlikely to rent out a room. They don't have to. But they shouldn't stop others from legally doing so.

Caroline Cox writes:

I am writing about bills currently before the General Assembly that limit private enterprise like bill SB1579.

Please vote against or table this bill tomorrow in committee and vote against others like it on the floor.

As a native Virginian, I would like our state to be friendly towards small businesses and voters of every income.

I understand why Air B&B hosts should register with their locality and pay taxes. We should support the state of Virginia as it supports us. 

However,  bills like SB1579 are patently designed to prevent Air B&B and other host registry sites from competing with hotels and luxury B & Bs.

 The $500,000 insurance requirement as well as the $10,000 fine are designed to prevent small businesses from making money and lowering other competitors prices. 

Why are hotels and luxury B&Bs trying to prevent moderately priced tourism in Virginia?

 Senator Norment introduced one of these bills because he has financial interests in the hotel industry. These bills favor hotels and luxurious B and Bs and exclude individual moderate income businesses. Regulations should encourage, not exclude micro-economies and busineses.

 The state and localities could earn taxes from individual homeowners and moderate income tourists that they would never see under these anti-air B and B bills.

For example, my husband and I live on one income of approximately $50,000. We cannot afford to regularly travel using hotels and B&Bs with rates of over $50. 

Sadly, we both love to travel. If we were both hosts and guests on Air  B&B, we would earn, spend and pay more taxes in Virginia. While we occasionally enjoy a splurge on a regular hotel or a luxurious B&B, we currently limit our travel to camping, Mennonite Your Way and Couch Surfing. We also travel infrequently.The state loses taxes as a result.

I hope you can envision how much money Virginia and its localities could make with bills for air B&B regulations that would not exclude small homeowners like us who represent the majority of your voters.

Please also note that there are many publicly published letters against this bill on Richmond Sunlight.

Yours Sincerely,

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox writes:

On Tuesday Jan 31st at the local Government Committee meeting,  anti-Air BNB bills SB 1578 and SB 1579 were postponed.

 Senator Stanley, patron of bill  SB1579 and Chair of the Local Government Committee, said the bills were postponed until "Thursday" without specifying exact date, location and time.

After emailing his legislative aide, I found out that "Senate Bills 1578 and 1579 will be heard in the Senate Committee on Local Government February 2, at 10 a.m. in Senate Room A of the General Assembly Building.  "