City council hears recommendations for Airbnb regulations

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Jack Descher presents to the Virginia Beach city council

Jack Descher, chair of the committee dedicated to examining the local impacts of rental homes, presents the committee’s recommendations for stricter rental regulations to the Virginia Beach city council.

During a city council briefing Tuesday afternoon, Virginia Beach council members heard recommendations from a 15-person ad-hoc committee that has considered the city and statewide impacts of online home sharing, particularly Airbnb homes.

Committee Chair Jack Drescher presented a plan to increase rental home regulations at both city and state levels, in response to concerns communicated by nearly 300 Virginia Beach residents during recent public hearing opportunities.

According to Drescher, most important is the implementation of a permit process for rental homeowners.

“All rental residential properties should be registered with the Commissioner of Revenue to ensure all taxes are paid and maintain the health, safety, and welfare of the community,” he said.

A key aspect of the permit would be a requirement that the owner of the property be available to respond in person at all times — a concern that became especially prevalent after the shooting of 20-year-old Darren Campbell, an Old Dominion University Student, at a party that took place at an Airbnb rental in April while the home owner was out of the country.

The committee also believes in the necessity of proper insurance coverage for residential rental properties, which would continue to improve safety and level the playing field with local hotel accommodations that already subscribe to these standards.

“Many of these rental homeowners do not realize that they lack the proper coverage,” said Drescher. “These points not only protect the homeowner, but also the renter as well.”

Critical to the presentation was the committee’s belief that the city must do more to enforce the existing laws by designating specific entities to deal with issues that arise from rental home use.

“We know the our police departments are understaffed and they respond to calls based on the level of importance, but the designations of appropriate personnel may be derived from permit fees and taxes generated by the rentals,” said Dresher.

Under a current ordinance enforced by the city of Virginia Beach, homeowners are already required to register their rental homes and pay transient occupancy taxes to the city, but the committee estimates nearly 80 percent of rental homes have yet to identify themselves, contributing to a tax loss of nearly $2 million a year for the city.

The committee says it has identified several online platforms that will provide rental home address information of unregistered homes, at the price of $65,000.

“We expect resistance from Airbnb, but we believe the city is perfectly within it’s right to make decisions that will hopefully impact the state,” said Drescher.

On Nov. 5, the council will consider the committee’s recommendations and determine which points they would like to move forward with for upcoming ordinances and state lobbying. The city’s top home rental concerns will be brought to the general assembly in January 2017.

“Our committee was an interesting mix of people, but I would say 70 percent of the decisions we made were unanimous,” Drescher said. “I think we did a great job, not withstanding our different personalities and approaches, to give you parameters to make this decision.”

Pohl may be reached at mariah@localvoicemedia.com

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City council hears recommendations for Airbnb regulations