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Arlington Mulls Regulating Airbnb Rentals

Airbnb logoArlington County is moving toward regulating short-term housing rentals booked through websites like Airbnb and Craigslist.

Airbnb, which has become an alternative to hotels or vacation rentals for many, is growing in popularity, prompting county staff and the County Board to initiate a public process that is expected to lead to regulations on such rentals.

Nearly 1,000 properties in Arlington were listed on Airbnb this month, according to a county press release. The number was closer to 1,600 earlier this summer, said County Manager Mark Schwartz.

While Airbnb is allowing residents to earn extra income by renting out their homes, some say Airbnb renters can make for lousy neighbors. Officials say they’ve heard from both residents concerned about Airbnb and from Airbnb hosts who want the service moved out of legal limbo in Arlington.

“We have several goals for regulating short-term residential rentals,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “We want to protect the character of Arlington’s neighborhoods, ensure public safety for our community, reduce barriers for those who already are or may want to use their homes as short-term rentals in a legal and responsible manner and provide a mechanism for enforcement.”

In October, the Board is expected to pass a Request to Advertise for public hearings on a Zoning Ordinance amendment related to short-term rentals. A final vote on the new regulations could take place as early as December.

One complicating factor: the Virginia General Assembly is considering legislation that would prevent local governments from restricting or collecting hotel taxes on short-term rentals.

“We do not know at this time, what the new legislation will include, and thus the impacts on local government ability to regulate short-term rentals,” County Manager Mark Schwartz told the Board. “We do know that there has been a demand from the community, including short term rental hosts, asking for rules on how to operate legally. By acting prior to the end of December 2016, the County can help inform the state’s ultimate decision.”

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