Letter: Oppose the ‘Airbnd bills’



HB 812 Limited Residential Lodging Act (aka ‘The Airbnd Bill’)

Summary: Limited Residential Lodging Act; penalty. Establishes the Limited Residential Lodging Act (the Act), which allows property owners to rent out their homes or portions thereof for charge for periods of less than 30 consecutive days or do so through a hosting platform, under certain circumstances. The hosting platform may register with the Department of Taxation, in which case the hosting platform is responsible for the collection and remittance of all applicable taxes on behalf of the property owner. The bill defines “limited residential lodging,” “booking transaction,” and “hosting platform” and provides for penalties for violations of the Act.

— Virginia Legislative Information System

An open letter to Virginia State Senator Mark Obenshain, and Delegates Michael Webert and Todd Gilbert:

I ask that you oppose the proposed Limited Residential Lodging Act.

Years ago, in choosing to live on agricultural property bounded by similarly zoned neighboring properties in rural Rappahannock County, my family and I chose the bucolic over the expedient, foregoing the trappings and intrusiveness of commercial activity in favor of simple country living. I submit that having made this choice, we are vested with an expectation of peaceful possession, control and enjoyment of our property, which, because of our pastoral surroundings, is an expectation even greater in degree than one would have in a more urban environment. Effective land use planning protects agricultural and residential uses from the potential impacts of more intrusive, intensive, incompatible neighboring commercial uses.  

If the proposed Limited Residential Lodging Act is seen as protecting property rights, that belief is misguided; if enacted and if constitutional (see Article I, Constitution of Virginia, below), it would have the effect of leaving vested property owners reliant on an “optional local regulation of limited residential lodging activity,”, and the incumbent governmental intrusion which enforcement would entail, to protect their inherent rights, while pitting neighbor against neighbor given the complaint driven nature of enforcement. Is the use of the word “Limited” in the title to the act intended to disarm those who would otherwise act on this threat to their established property rights? Additionally, in providing security in vast rural counties such as Rappahannock, local sheriffs rely on the vigilance of the local community, ever on the lookout for the unusual, odd and unfamiliar. Introducing the element of anonymous transient residential boarders to this security scheme, where the community cannot distinguish the transient from the intruder, will have a chilling effect, rendering it ineffective.

The current system of requiring a party proposing an incongruous use of their property to apply for a special use permit makes sense, given that they are seeking an exception to the land use rules. The burden of proving continuing compliance is rightfully placed on the successful applicant. It allows for those whose rights will potentially be impacted and exploited to have their say at a public hearing before their property rights and land values are diminished. Like those property owners who relied on existing zoning to safeguard their rights against intrusive neighboring uses when choosing their property, those wishing to operate commercial lodging houses for transients can choose property located where such a use is both appropriate and a vested right.

For these reasons, the proposed Limited Residential Lodging Act represents an inappropriate intrusion into established property rights, especially in rural Virginia.

George Sonnett


Constitution of Virginia
Article I. Bill of Rights

Section 11. Due process of law; obligation of contracts; taking or damaging of private property; prohibited discrimination; jury trial in civil cases
…”That the General Assembly shall pass no law whereby private property, the right to which is fundamental, shall be damaged or taken except for public use.”

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