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Homestays and Short-Term Rentals (Lodging)

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Background

Homestay vs. Short-Term Rentals

Homestay and Short-Term Rental Annual Registration

Business License and Registration for transient occupancy and state sales tax

Short-Term Rental Special Use Permit Process

Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Information

 

Background

On March 26, -2019, City Council adopted new Zoning Ordinance regulations associated with short-term transient lodging commonly referred to as “Airbnbs.” These operations, unless previously approved by the City as a bed and breakfast, have been illegal in the City of Harrisonburg. The regulations established a new term and definition for "short-term rental" (STR). Since March 2019, several amendments have been made to the regulations including the addition of a new use called "homestays." Individuals wishing to operate an STR or homestay are encouraged to contact Planning and Zoning Division at the Department of Community Development to determine whether the planned operation can begin as a homestay without special approvals or if the operation requires approval of a special use permit granted by City Council. Many STR and homestay operators use services, including but not limited to Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and FlipKey to advertise their properties. 

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Homestay vs. Short-Term Rentals

homestay is defined as: "[i]n a single-family detached, duplex, or townhouse dwelling unit, the provision of a guest room or accommodation space within the principal building that is suitable or intended for transient occupancy for dwelling, sleeping, or lodging purposes and is offered in exchange for a charge for the occupancy.

short-term rental (STR) is defined as “[t]he provision of a dwelling unit, a guestroom or accommodation space within the dwelling unit, or any accessory building that is suitable or intended for transient occupancy for dwelling, sleeping, or lodging purposes and is offered in exchange for a charge for the occupancy.”

By Right Homestay

City Council approval would not be required for this use.

Short-term rental by Special Use Permit (STR by SUP)

Anyone who wants to operate outside of what is permitted through a Homestay use may apply for a STR SUP. Below are minimum regulations for STRs. During review/approval, conditions can be placed upon a STR SUP that are more restrictive.

Must be operator’s primary residence.

Must be operator’s primary residence.

If the operator is not the property owner, then the operator must be present during the lodging period.

If the operator is not the property owner, then the operator must be present during the lodging period.

Lodging periods limited to less than 30 consecutive nights.

Lodging periods limited to less than 30 consecutive nights.

May operate up to 90 nights per calendar year.

No limit on number of nights that the STR can operate per year unless conditioned by SUP.

Maximum of 4 guests.

No maximum number of guests unless conditioned by SUP.

Allowed in all zoning districts in which residential uses are allowed.

Allowed in all zoning districts in which residential uses are allowed.

Allowed in single-family detached, duplex, and townhomes. Not allowed in multi-family dwellings/apartments. 

Allowed in single-family detached, duplex, townhomes, and multi-family units. Note that multi-family units will likely require physical renovations, which will necessitate proper Building and trade permits and associated inspections.

No off-street parking requirements.

One off-street parking space for each accommodation space, unless conditioned otherwise.

Annual registration - $25/year

Annual registration - $25/year

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Homestay and Short-Term Rental Annual Registration

Unless exempt by State Code, all operators of homestays and STRs must register annually with the Department of Community Development. The registration is valid from the date the registration occurs through December 31st and shall be renewed annually by March 1st. The annual registration is $25 per year. 

Homestay and Short-Term Rental Annual Registration Form PDF[186KB].

* The 2020 registration is waived for STRs that received their SUP approval prior to September 8, 2020. These STR operators must begin registering for the 2021 year. All other operators of STRs and homestays must register for 2020. 

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Business License and Registration for transient occupancy and state sales tax

To operate a homestay or STR in the City of Harrisonburg, operators must also obtain a business license and register for transient occupancy and state sales tax. 

1. A business license from the City of Harrisonburg Commissioner of Revenue.

a. A business license for a STR operation cannot be obtained until a STR SUP is approved by City Council.  

b. Business licenses are valid from January 1st through December 31st and must be renewed annually by March 1st. 

c. General information and how to obtain a business license

d. General information on how to register for Transient Occupancy Tax.

2. A registration for state sales tax through the Virginia Department of Taxation. (Note: Some online services, such as AirBnB, are collecting and remitting state sales tax to the Virginia Department of Taxation for bookings made using their service. STR operators should contact online service providers for more information before registering with the Virginia Department of Taxation. Any failure to remit state sales tax is the responsibility of the STR operator.) 

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Short-Term Rental Special Use Permit Process

Before beginning operations, STR operators shall obtain the following: 

1. A special use permit. 

a. This is a one-time application obtained through the Department of Community Development and requires approval by City Council.

b. Special Use Permit application fees are $425.00 plus $30.00 for each acre of property. Property acreage is rounded up to the nearest whole number. 

c. Applicants may schedule a meeting with city staff before submitting an application to discuss planned STR operations and SUP application process. While this meeting is optional and not required, it is encouraged. Contact Planning staff at the Department of Community Development at 540-432-7700. 

d. Special use permit application and general procedures. The application should include a letter explaining the proposed use and reasons for seeking a special use permit. Applicants are encouraged to address the following in the letter:

(a) Who is the intended operator of the short-term rental (owner of the property, tenant, employee, or other designated agent).

(b) How many bedrooms or accommodation spaces will be rented for STR. Note: "Accommodation spaces" mean any room offered for sleeping. This would not include living spaces or rooms where guests would not be sleeping. 

(c) Description of where the accommodation spaces are located on the property.

(d) The maximum number lodgers that would be accommodated.

(e) Where lodgers will park their vehicles. 

City staff, Planning Commission, and City Council may use these responses to recommend or establish conditions that limit or expand the allowable STR operation. Applicants are encouraged to review the frequently asked questions section to address any other relevant questions. 

e. Special use permit application deadlines and meeting dates.

2. Short-Term Rental (STR) Pre-Operation Form. 

a. Short-Term Rental (STR) Pre-Operation Form PDF[93KB]. This form is required for properties with an approved STR special use permit when City Council has required that prior to operation, the operator shall have guest rooms and accommodation spaces and means of egress comply with the STR Pre-Operation Form. Applicants are encouraged to review this form prior to submitting a STR special use permit application to determine if planned accommodation spaces comply with Pre-Operation Form requirements.

b. The form must be completed by the property owner or STR operator, and summited to the Planning & Zoning Division of the Department of Community Development (409 South Main Street, 2nd Floor, Harrisonburg, VA 22801) before the STR operation can begin. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Visit the Frequently Asked Questions page

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Contact Information

For zoning and special use permit questions, contact the Planning & Zoning Division of the Department of Community Development at 540-432-7700.

For building code questions, contact the Building Inspections Division of the Department of Community Development at 540-432-7700. 

For business license and transient occupancy tax questions, contact the Commissioner of Revenue’s Office at 540-432-7704.

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To report any problems with the links or other content on this page, please email Nyrma.Soffel@harrisonburgva.gov.