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RA Board Unanimously Votes to Explore Strengthening Regulations on Airbnb-Type Rentals

by Jennifer van der Kleut — May 26, 2017 at 4:00 pm 41 Comments

At Thursday night’s meeting, the Reston Association Board of Directors voted to explore amending the association’s covenants to clarify and strengthen rules surrounding whether residents are permitted to rent out their homes temporarily to visitors, such as through sites like Airbnb.com.

Airbnb has become a hot topic throughout Fairfax County over the past year. County officials have sought to remind residents of the laws regarding short-term rentals of less than 30 days. Special permits must be obtained for operating one’s home much like a bed and breakfast, and for the most part, only single-family homes are allowed to do so, and not attached homes such as apartments, condos or townhomes.

Reston Association has previously mandated that, as part of the county, residents follow the county laws. However, the RA has been receiving some complaints about residents that have been renting out their homes on Airbnb anyway.

In particular, several letters have been received about a home on Trails Edge Lane. Complaints have alleged that not only have the owners been renting out parts of the home for as little as one day–at rates as low as $28 per night–but they have been exceeding maximum safe occupancy limits, sometimes putting multiple renters to a room, and renting out three to four rooms in a single home at the same time.

According to RA documents, the current owners purchased the home in question in January of 2016, and the complaints began just a few months later.

At first, documents indicate RA staff spoke with the homeowners, who agreed to abide by the county’s rules and only rent out the home for periods of longer than 30 days, which would not violate the county’s rules against “short-term” rentals.

It wasn’t long before complaints began coming in again, though, this time alleging that the homeowners were packing the house to the point of maxing out safe occupancy guidelines, and congesting the Trails Edge Lane cul-de-sac with parked vehicles that appeared to belong to the renters, edging out available parking for neighbors.

When RA staff started investigating the complaints, they became aware that the homeowner had recently filed an official application with the county to build a second dwelling unit on the property.

As they explored how a second unit on the homeowner’s property would impact surrounding residents, they said they could see that neighbors were unhappy.

“Pursuant to [the Zoning Ordinance], permit applications may only be approved if the proposed use will be harmonious with and will not adversely affect the use of neighboring properties. Based on the reports provided to us by the adjacent and nearby neighbors of the applicant, overwhelmingly indicating that their use and enjoyment of their properties has been negatively impacted, it is our position that the proposed use fails to meet this standard,” the RA staff members wrote in their notes to the Board of Directors.

The notes went on to state that neighbors had indicated there would often be as many as four to five additional cars parked on the cul-de-sac at a time, and that some parents with young children no longer felt it was safe to allow their children to play outside unsupervised, as they had long done in the past.

In conclusion, the staff members’ notes said they did not recommend approval of the application, and they believed that adding a second dwelling unit on the land would be detrimental to neighbors’ quality of life.

In an interesting twist, Ken Chadwick, general counsel to the RA Board, announced during Thursday’s meeting that the homeowner had just withdrawn his application for the additional dwelling unit.

Nonetheless, Chadwick said the whole issue had brought to light many problems with the enforcing of short-term rentals of Reston homes, and he suggested that Reston’s covenants needed to be updated to clarify the association’s position.

“We’re relying on the county code at this point, under our documents, to enforce any of the short-term rentals [regulations], but our documents do not have any provisions in them that, in and of themselves, independently, could be enforced,” Chadwick told board members.

Chadwick explained that in situations such as this, action depended on the county to first issue an official violation to the homeowner, and that allowed Reston Association to assist in its enforcement. Chadwick did report that he had been notified that an official violation was in the process of being sent to the homeowner by the county.

One resident addressed the Board during the meeting, adding that he was speaking on behalf of other residents as well, to state that he was glad to hear that the homeowner had withdrawn his application to put an accessory dwelling unit on his property to make room for more occupants, but that many are concerned he will continue to operate his business, which he categorized as “basically, what amounts to a hotel, on a residential street,” he said.

Another resident spoke up, providing print-outs to show that the homeowner had three of the bedrooms in his single-family home up for rental on Airbnb at the very moment, and that in the listings the homeowner was referring to the home as a “group home” in a “shared community.”

Board members asked Chadwick what could be done, and he said that evidence of all the regulations the homeowner is violating would need to be gathered, and then they could possibly be filed with the county and they could obtain a temporary injunction or conjunctive relief against the homeowner to prohibit further renting of the property while more “long-term solutions” are explored.

In addition, board members unanimously voted to have CEO Cate Fulkerson write an official letter on behalf of the Board expressing the association’s “grave concern.”

Board members also voted to initiate the process of exploring how to amend governing documents to clarify the RA’s position on “homesharing.”

A deadline of one week was placed on the directive, by which staff agreed to present a report educating the Board on their options for such an amendment.

See full footage of the discussion in the RA’s YouTube video of Thursday’s meeting.

 

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  • Jon May

    Yet another example of how over-regulation by government destroys entrepreneurship. Leave Airbnb alone.

    • Tammi Petrine

      John, you have no clue how the neighborhood in question has been abused by a very bad AirBNB agent. One owner does not have the right to move into a neighborhood and turn the lives and safety of an entire street into a nightmare. He has been wholly irresponsible in his operation, uncooperative with officials and needs to be shut down. This is not one or two neighbors against a perfectly innocent entrepreneur. The whole community has coalesced because of the danger this enterprise presents. Listen to the tape for details.

      He has ruined this source of income for many, many responsible others. Such is often the case. If it takes a covenant change, sadly it must happen. Apparently he bought this home to turn it into a mini hotel. I would certainly not want the same in my neighborhood either. This is absolutely not a case of over-regulation as the neighbors have suffered for well over a year and neither police or county has yet shut this down. They have come to RA as a last resort. So put the responsibility where it belongs, please.

      • Jenny Gibbers

        Hey Tammi, when Cate steps down because of her scandals remember you re the first in line to take the throne and rule the temple.

        Thanks, the aristocracy has spoken.

      • Mike M

        Are there County rules? I think so. Let the County and its extensive legal apparatus handle it. RA needs to focus more narrowly.

        • Chuck Morningwood

          Ah we meet again, my greasiest nemesis Mikey! If only you knew how bad your lack of knowledge hurts you. Been hittind the sauce a bit to hard lately? Yours truly

      • 40yearsinreston

        The responsibility is with Commissar Hudgins

    • John Farrell

      Every airbnb operator without a special permit is committing a crime.

      Prosecute to the full extent of the law!

      • 40yearsinreston

        Kindly ask Hudgins to get off her backside and get involved

        • John Farrell

          That’s up to the Zoning Administrator, Leslie Johnson.

          Feel free to let her know your views.

          • 40yearsinreston

            You’re the expert

          • John Farrell

            And?

  • Jenny Gibbers

    With real estate prices topping out and people working multiple jobs to pay their bills its no surprise that airbnb and lyft are doing well not only in our micro but also macro economy.

    So its a bit surprising that a money losing HOA is getting their nose twisted out of joint over what appears to be legit businesses; while at the same time some small minded neighbors use the RA as an arbitrator over their petty beefs.

    If the board really thinks they are building community here, perhaps ask: how much is it costing us? Because RA will be hiring a crew of community arbitrators to enforce the peace and you all know that will never happen.

  • Waitwhat

    What? Some of you are against regulating this sort of crap happening on Trails Edge Lane? Guess if you’re not living it, you’re not seeing the problem, can’t even sympathize, can’t even do the imagine if this happened on my street thing.

    • 40yearsinreston

      Not against regulating – against RA wasting their time and our money

      Hudgins should handle it – but good luck with that one

      • Waitwhat

        Okay, yeah, I can see that point. I’ve got around 40 years in Reston, too, and expensive RA debacles seem to bloom now….Hudgins, yeah….yeah, sigh.

      • Ricky R

        Agree with 40 years on all counts.

  • 40yearsinreston

    RA has no provenance in this matter
    The Lawyer is an ambulance chaser

    • John Farrell

      Wrong – operation of an airbnb home is contrary to the single family character of that area.

      Rentals for less than 30 days are defined in the Zoning Ordinance as being a “hotel.”

      • 40yearsinreston

        zoning is a function of the county – not RA

        • John Farrell

          A. RA has as much say in zoning issues as any landowner and, given its representative function for the 60,000 people who live within its boundaries as set out in the governing documents, a great deal more.

          B. Similarly, RA is also obliged to regulate land uses through the promulgation and enforcement of the covenants.

          • 40yearsinreston

            Give it up
            RA has no more clout than a homeowner
            Even less because they don’t pay property taxes nor vote
            Why isn’t Hudgins getting lambasted

          • John Farrell

            MCA has enormous clout in land use cases in Tyson’s, BBI the same in Mason. RA should have even more since those organizations are voluntary and represent far fewer people.

            Hudgins is getting lambasted.

          • 40yearsinreston

            A bit of advice
            Follow the money – it will lead you to the truth more often than not

          • John Farrell

            That’s a bit obscure.

          • Mike M

            I have to shake my head. The idea that RA needs to get in a legal battle with Air BnB after all their recent over extension is really laughable. It’s the County’s job. Meanwhile, the very geographic heart of Reston is exploding into a super high density metropolis and RA’s “clout” is nowhere to be found.

          • Jenny Gibbers

            John, because you re the smartest guy on this anti thread let me respind directly to you.

            1. You are the luckiest “greediest” generation with a pension plan, retirement savings and still you complain the loudest
            2. You have 4 children yet you fight them by killing the american dream by letting young peiple drown in growing debt and by not letting them pay off their homes

            So this is not about the RA bureaucracy and political clout, I know you lost a few local elections even tho you may have been the best candidate at the time. Anyways, you could easily win if you made some sense and clarified airbnb mess and made it easier for people to rent out their homes without breaking the law and without causing neighbors concern or arbitrating petty beefs which is all too common.

            Thanks and my respect.

          • John Farrell

            1. I can’t speak for my “generation” but I don’t have a pension plan and don’t know many who do. They were wiped in the private sector in the 80s.

            2. None of my 4 kids own a home. They’re not “drowning in debt” because I helped them with tuition, though their student loan debt is not insignificant.

            When they do buy a home, they have been taught the guidelines to follow that will enable them to have mortgage payments that are manageable and avoid buying more house than they can afford.

            I ran for the RA Board once, not a “few times.”

            Operation of uses that are the equivalent of rooming house, boarding houses and the like are appropriate for commercial areas like RTC not the residential neighborhoods and clusters of Reston.

          • Jenny Gibbers

            An airbnb is not a boarding house. I stayed at a 1700s era barn, california mansion, many others very ok. All of those better than a hotel, that is why i like residential neighborhoods for their home feel.

            I just dont think you understand airbnb as a concept. In any event i respect you re opinion although its biased; likely you got sucked into one of those reston petty beefs.

            All in all i think you have more wisdom, courage and integrity in your little finger than the whole RA board combined so I salute you, hope you run again. We need a strong leader and a lawyer on the board and you would be great. Thanks,

          • John Farrell

            Thank you for your kind words.

          • PoloFieldsDweller

            RA will not enforce any dwelling use other than its external appearance. That’s been put to me in writing, more than once.

  • Dale

    Both Reston Association and Fairfax County have a say here! In some places in Reston there are sub Associations who also have a say here. All of this is to ensure what is now happening does not happen! As a Reston Homeowner and also one who is living under not one but two Associations I was made clearly aware of the responsibilities I had as a Homeowner here when I bought here. Reston homes are not to be motels and hotels at an Owner’s wim! If my property is no longer safe or my property values are impacted by someone who ignores the law you can be sure I will sue and I will win!

  • 40yearsinreston

    why isn’t Hudgins involved ?
    She is in the FCBOS

  • vdiv

    Living in Reston just gets better by the hour.

  • Greg

    BOHICA: This will be a quarter-million dollar boondoggle…

    Nonetheless, Chadwick said the whole issue had brought to light many problems with the enforcing of short-term rentals of Reston homes, and he suggested that Reston’s covenants needed to be updated to clarify the association’s position.

    • 40yearsinreston

      Another RA debacle in the making
      The lawyers will clean up

  • Greg

    Also, there are dozens of Reston places listed on airbnb:

    https://www.airbnb.com/s/Reston-VA/homes?allow_override%5B%5D=&s_tag=vkC2kGp8

  • Why do you bother?

    Finally, something Fulkerson can do without screwing it up: signing a letter.

    • 40yearsinreston

      Don’t be too sure
      She will get lawyered up at our expense before she does anything

  • Greg

    The county does provide for accessory dwelling units in single-family houses albeit presumably for longer-term rentals for the elderly and disabled.

    http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/zoningordinance/appendices/apx05.pdf

  • jmsullivan

    It occurs to me to wonder what the reviews of the location on AirBnb are like. Are they good? Generally positive? People having an enjoyable time staying there?

    If so, then I think I see your problem. If guests were routinely having uncomfortable experiences there, I suspect the problem would solve itself pretty quickly.

    • Greg

      Also, there are only three hotels in Reston, all of which are 4-star properties charging well over $140 per night — at least $200 at the always-booked Hyatt. 250 or so rooms in each.

      With all of the nearly 50 redevelopment projects underway, no transient lodging is planned?

      Maybe there’s a shortage of short-term sleeping rooms in Reston…

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