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County Board to Consider Allowing Renters to Host Airbnb Guests

Arlington County Board on 9/27/16As of Jan. 1, those listing their homes on Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and other such services have a new set of Arlington County regulations to follow.

That followed the fast-tracked County Board approval of the regulations on Dec. 12, beating the state legislature — which is considering a more lax set of policies that could supercede local rules — to the punch.

With the rules now in place, however, the Arlington County Board is looking to make some changes. Chief among them is allowing renters, not just homeowners, to generate extra income by opening their home to short-term guests.

Advantaging those who own a home over those who rent was criticized by some as regressive, and at its Jan. 28 meeting the Board appears poised to respond. (As part of the legislative process, such changes must first be “advertised” to the public, and the Board did so in December while approving the original regulations.)

In a Board report, county staff said limiting Airbnb privileges to homeowners was an idea gleaned from other jurisdictions — an idea that staff came to realize would face significant pushback.

“Throughout the public outreach process, staff heard from renters with an interest in hosting accessory homestay, including the majority of participants at a public open house, and from several advisory groups and commissions, including the Housing Commission, and from several participants in an online feedback form,” staff wrote. “Staff concluded that it would be appropriate to broaden the proposed amendment to allow accessory homestay in all dwellings occupied by a resident who uses the dwelling as his/her primary residence, regardless of ownership status.”

The change would not, however, automatically mean that any renter could turn their apartment into a de facto hotel: the renter or homeowner must still use the home as their primary residence for at least 185 days out of the year, and landlords could still prevent tenants from taking in short-term renters.

“Even if the proposed amendment is adopted to allow tenants to host accessory homestay, a lease could still preclude (or further limit) a resident from using his/her home for accessory homestay purposes, and any enforcement of lease terms would be between the tenant and landlord,” staff wrote.

Other changes being considered this month include allowing hosts to rent out rooms to multiple short-term “roommates” on separate contracts, and making several “updates for clarity and consistency.”

The Arlington Planning Commission is scheduled to take up the changes at its meeting tonight before the Board votes on it later this month.

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