Virginia Beach residents who rent their homes on Airbnb and other home-rental sites must now register with the City’s commissioner of the revenue and pay a transient occupancy tax (TOT).
City Council approved the new requirements in an ordinance Tuesday. It also approved the establishment of an ad hoc committee that will study the online home-sharing economy. By the end of September, the committee will recommend potential changes to the City ordinance and provide input for the General Assembly Workgroup and the Council’s General Assembly legislative agenda.
A city official hailed the new requirements.
“I think it’s a great tool for us to try and discover how many units are out there,” Robert Matthias, assistant to City Manager Dave Hansen, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I think it’s going to be an iterative process – we’re going to have to publish it and make sure people are aware of it as much as possible.”
Residents who fail to register or pay the TOT are required to post a $1,000 bond “to insure faithful performance” of their duty to pay the tax. Failure to obtain the bond would result in a $1,000 fine. The revenue commissioner would also be empowered under the measure to “take appropriate action” against the bond if notified by the city treasurer about nonpayment of the necessary taxes.
The ad hoc committee will have:
- A chairperson appointed by Council
- A representative from each of the seven Council Districts who is on the board of a civic league, a homeowners association or a property owners association
- A representative of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association
- A Virginia Beach representative of the Hampton Roads Realtors Association
- A Virginia Beach representative of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce
The City has reached out to the chief Virginia lobbyist for Airbnb to see whether an Airbnb representative would be interested in joining the committee as well, Mayor Will Sessoms said in a phone interview Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Airbnb provided a comment by email Wednesday evening.
“Earlier this year we worked with the General Assembly on legislation that would have made it possible for Airbnb to collect and remit hotel taxes on behalf of our hosts and guests in the Commonwealth,” the email said. “It’s unfortunate those measures were unsuccessful, but we believe that cities should make it easier – not harder – for everyday people to share their homes, positively impact their neighborhoods, and provide travelers an authentic, local experience in Virginia.”
Names of the ad hoc committee members are not yet available, Matthias said, though he believes Council decided on specific people Tuesday evening.
The ad hoc committee will likely deal with publicizing the new requirements, Matthias said. It’s also likely the committee will host webinars, virtual town-hall meetings as well as public meetings, he said.
One resident greeted the Council’s move with resignation.
Virginia Beach resident Daniel Dill rented his Hilltop Area home on Airbnb in July for the first time. He attended a City Council briefing earlier this month when the ordinance was first discussed. He has spent at least $2,000 on home improvements to his condominium for the rentals, such as patio furniture, an outdoor grill and a new sliding glass door. He is not currently registered with the City.
Dill wasn’t surprised by Council’s approval of the tax ordinance, he said.
“I expected them to probably pass it,” Dill said.
Dill believes the ordinance won’t be effective in regulating residents who only rent their homes a few times a year. These residents won’t voluntarily register with the city and pay taxes, he said.
Dill currently has his home rented out for a couple of weeks in August. He isn’t certain whether or not he will register with the City.
“I haven’t decided yet,” he said. “It’s the law, so I probably ought to. I’m conflicted.”
“I’m kind of visible now, maybe I should register and go pay the taxes,” he added.
Sessoms believes the City is setting a precedent.
“I think we’re really on the right track,” he said. “I think we’re going to be ahead of the all of the other cities in the way we’re addressing it.”
Matthias shared information about other cities’ Airbnb-related policies with the City Council in a letter on July 14. His research includes examples from cities in other countries, like Paris, which fines violators close to $28,000, and Barcelona, which doesn’t allow rentals of private residences. Closer to home, Charlottesville requires registration of six or fewer guests and the spaces must be occupied by the owner.