VB council looking into uses of online home sharing rentals

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach officials are continuing to look into the uses of online home sharing rentals, such as Airbnb.

In August, Virginia Beach City Council unanimously voted to require Airbnb hosts to register with the city and pay a tax. The ordinance fines homeowners $1,000 if they fail to register.

Online rental regulations a divisive issue for Beach residents

Once registered, hosts pay an eight percent tax, which officials expect will generate up to $2 million annually.

Council also established an online home sharing committee comprised of realtors, civic league members, business leaders and homeowners to look at the issue and decide how the city could move forward.

Tuesday, the committee provided its finding to the city council.

“There is no opportunity to prohibit online rentals, nor do we think that such is an appropriate avenue for the city to pursue,” wrote Chairman Jack Drescher in an Oct. 28 letter to Mayor Will Sessoms and council.

The committee said in the letter it believes renting a room or an entire home is a business and should be regulated like hotels, motels and bread and breakfast establishments which pay taxes to the city.

READ: Committee Airbnb Recommendations

Committee members also noted concerns for health, welfare and safety when it comes to online rentals.

“We do not know if homeowners leasing their properties have adequate insurance to protect themselves and those who rent from them, or if even basic health, welfare and safety precautions such as some detectors,” Drescher said in the letter.

The committee recommended council members ask the Virginia General Assembly to allow local ordinances handle online home sharing instead of statewide control. Members also believe all local taxes should stay in Virginia Beach rather than go back to the state.

“Council should carefully revisit our current residential zoning classifications to determine where daily and short-term rentals may be permitted,” Drescher added.

The committee wants to see all residential properties officered for daily and short-term rentals, register with the Commissioner of Revenue and apply for a rental permit from the city.

“The committee believes that an effective registration/permit requirement is the key to ensuring that all taxes are pad and that daily/short-term rental hosts are on a level playing field with other providers of transient lodging,” Drescher said.

Members are also asking the city to make sure there are health and safety requirements for rentals.

Council is expected to vote on the recommendations in its Nov. 15 meeting.