HARRISONBURG — Around one month after the city began enforcing the special-use permit for short-term rentals, there have been nine violations.
Although City Council approved the special-use permit regulations in March, there was a grace period where short-term rental users without a permit would not be penalized. Notices were sent out informing operators that penalties would ensue if found operating on or after Aug. 1.
With a special-use permit, properties offered online through Airbnb.com and similar sites will be classified along with bed-and-breakfasts as short-term rentals and required to have a special-use permit to operate in residential areas.
“Staff monitors short-term rental advertising websites for locations that have not received approval of a special-use permit,” Harrisonburg Zoning Administrator Rachel Drescher said.
In a July meeting, Adam Fletcher, the city’s director of planning and community development, told council that because staff can track short-term rentals through sites like Airbnb.com and compare it to who has obtained a license through the city, it will not be difficult to enforce the regulations.
Individuals found illegally operating a short-term rental without a permit will receive a violation notice with a $100 fine for the first offense and failure to bring the property into compliance by ceasing operation and removing any advertising of the short-term rental will result in a $200 fine for the second offense and a $500 fine for any subsequent offense, according to the notice that gets sent out to violators.
Anyone who receives a violation has 30 days to appeal the decision before it becomes final. The application for the appeal is $300.
In August, staff was monitoring the short-term rentals around once a week, but Drescher said the monitoring has been reduced because most of the advertisements have been located.
“I expect staff will monitor every few weeks, along with addressing any complaints received,” she said.
So far, there have been 19 special-use permits for short-term rentals approved by City Council. Council will look at three requests at its Tuesday night council meeting.
Drescher said she thinks enforcement has been going well so far and sees no reason to change the way it’s being enforced.
“The most beneficial piece in helping to bring properties into compliance has been the education of the newly adopted regulations, not only by city staff, but also the community educating each other,” she said, adding that the majority of residents who had been operating and advertising a short-term rental have worked to comply with the regulations prior to enforcement.