Franklin County imposes new short-term rental registration fee

Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 5:55 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - People renting out homes and other spaces for visitors in Franklin County will now have to pay an annual registration fee.

It is part of a new short-term rental registration process the county has started to make sure the properties are safe for visitors.

Kristie MacDonald and her family are among the first to complete the new process.

They recently bought a home on Smith Mountain Lake. They plan to live there full time in a few years, but in the meantime are getting ready to rent it out for visitors just staying a few days in the area.

“We thought it was such a wonderful atmosphere and we weren’t going to be using it a lot of the time. So our plan was to turn it into a short-term rental,” MacDonald said.

Short-term rental properties are defined as the rental of a dwelling for 30 days or less and are only permitted in certain zoning areas in the county.

“Basically anyone looking to rent their property through Airbnb or Vrbo or one of those online platforms will need to register their property with the county each year,” Franklin County Planning Director Steve Sandy said.

Right now the county has about 200 short-term rentals, but expects to see more pop up, Sandy said.

“This year we saw a real increase in that popularity due to COVID, I’m sure, where many units in the county were booked all summer and we saw many new units come online,” Sandy said.

The goal of the registration and its annual $200 fee is to keep track of the rentals and keep people safe.

Registered properties will be inspected each year and are expected to include things like evacuation plans and fire extinguishers.

“We want to make sure that everyone has an enjoyable experience and that the structure is safe,” Sandy said.

The fee will help cover the cost of the inspection and help the county pay for a firm, Host Compliance, they have hired to help them monitor all the registered rentals in the area.

Property owners who fail to pay the fee or register their property could be fined upwards of $500.

The county has also created a hotline for people with complaints about a short-term rental in their neighborhood.

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