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New short-term rental bills could change the rules in Hampton Roads and across the state

Senate Bill 1391, created by Sen. Lynwood Lewis, would take away some power from city leaders to regulate short-term rentals that Virginia realtors operate.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A new bill moving through the Virginia General Assembly could change how short-term rentals are controlled across the state and here in Hampton Roads.

Senate Bill 1391, created by Sen. Lynwood Lewis, would take away some power from city leaders to regulate short-term rentals that Virginia realty companies operate.

The bill says a locality may not restrict by ordinance any short-term rental property managed by a Virginia realtor. Sen. Lewis oversees parts of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, as well as all of Accomack, Mathews and Northampton counties.

Ocean View Cottage Line Civic League President Richard Anderson said current rental rules in Norfolk work. He doesn't want the legislation to pass.

“The only way that short-term rentals are going to work is if there is strong regulation and enforcement capabilities,” Anderson said. “That rewards the good operators, and it punishes the bad operators.”

Anderson said he’s written to Sen. Lewis.

“I will tell you that all the civic leagues up and down this strip, and I am sure Virginia Beach and some Eastern Shore communities, are alarmed over this,” Anderson said.

Kendall Maynard disagrees. She owns a short-term rental at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. City leaders only allow short-term rentals in certain Oceanfront areas and in Sandbridge. Grandfathered properties have exceptions.

“It would give a path for homeowners who were banned from having short-term rentals before because they are not in those two overlay districts,” Maynard said. “They would have a path to have a realtor and be able to short-term rent.”

Maynard said people come to our area for more than just the beach.

“We have this huge military presence here, and you have traveling nurses, you have groups that come in that are not just coming for the Oceanfront,” Maynard said. “They might want to go to the amphitheater, they might want to go to Town Center, there are so many events all over the city. But there is no short-term rental availability or homeowners to be able to short-term rentals for those groups.”

In a statement today, Sen. Lewis said he wants to clarify the bill's purpose after hearing feedback.

He said the bill ensures short-term rental properties managed by licensed realtors can operate without significant overreach in some areas. His bill says city ordinances could not prohibit several things like short-term rentals, limiting how many days a property can be rented, and requiring an owner to add extra parking.

However, Sen. Lewis said his legislation only removes some provisions, for example, if a city requires a conditional use permit to operate a short-term rental, realtors are not exempt.

He said the bill does not allow for open short-term rental proliferation. It does not supersede rules or provisions put forth by HOAs and/or property owners' associations. It does not remove local authority to enforce noise ordinances, trash ordinances, zoning and/or building codes. It does not remove local authority to create and enforce short-term rental ordinances for their localities as it pertains to properties not owned by licensed realtors.

While Sen. Lewis said the bill doesn’t solve all issues in short-term rental management, he hopes it’s a step forward for the Commonwealth in navigating a rapidly changing and expanding industry.

An identical bill is passing through the House, proposed by Virginia Del. Daniel Marshall. He represents District 14.

Hampton Roads Realtor Association President Jeremy Johnson said realtors are more than qualified for the job.

“I think we can absolutely handle it,” Johnson said. “Realtors have been working in the space of property management for decades and we have been representing short-term rental owners for years.”

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