What Virginia Real Estate Investors Must Know About Conditional Use Permits for Short-Term Rentals

April 15, 2022 – Matthew S. Akers & Douglas McCarthy

Do you have a second home or property you would like to turn into a second revenue stream? You might consider making it a short-term rental property (STR). Many people who own a second home make a considerable income by choosing the STR route. Before you decide to turn your property into an STR, be sure that you understand your city’s applicable laws and regulations.

Virginia allows localities to adopt an ordinance requiring property owners to register to use the property as a short-term rental. The state defines a short-term rental as “the provision of a room or space suitable for sleeping or lodging for less than 30 consecutive days in exchange for a charge for the occupancy.”

Furthermore, if a particular locality does not have an STR regulation, they still may not be permitted.  And an HOA or condo association may ban or limit STRs in localities where they are allowed. If you are unsure about your locality’s STR rules and regulations, contact an experienced real estate attorney today.

What is a Conditional Use Permit?

In Virginia, if you would like to turn your property into an STR, you will likely have to apply for a conditional use permit (CUP).  A conditional use permit provides an exemption to a local zoning ordinance. In most instances, it allows a property owner to use his or her property in a way that does not technically comply with the local zoning laws. CUPs require case-by-case approval by the city council.

Do I need a Conditional Use Permit?

The short answer here is…possibly. Each locality is permitted to require conditional use permits for short-term rentals. Therefore, depending on the zoning laws where your property is located, you may be required to obtain a CUP.

For example, in Virginia Beach, vacation properties in the Oceanfront Resort District must obtain a conditional use permit to operate as a vacation rental property. The district decided to impose this requirement to allow for the continued use of properties as STRs while at the same time protecting the interests of the community. Each community will have its own interests and reasons for requiring CUPs for vacation rental properties.

Applying for A Conditional Use Permit

The application process for CUPs can be long and tedious and may take up to four months to complete in some locales. It will also likely require multiple hearings. In Winchester, property owners should contact the Planning Department to discuss the proposed use of the property and set up a pre-application meeting. At this meeting, the city will provide information about the CUP process, the required materials for submission, fees, how the proposal will be evaluated, and answer questions.

To apply for a CUP, property owners must submit:

  • A completed Conditional Use Application
  • Seven sets of site plans
  • A letter addressing compliance issues
  • A list of the surrounding property owners, disclosure of rental interests, floor plan evaluations
  • A fee, payable to the City Planning Department

If you plan to apply for a CUP, you will have 30 days to submit the required materials.

What Happens After the Application is Submitted?

The review process for a CUP application can last up to three months. Some of the main steps in the process include:

  • Posting of public hearing signs and notice by the person applying for a CUP to adjoining property owners.
  • Planning Commission review, public hearing, and recommendation.
  • City Council review, public hearing, and action.

Once approved by the City Council, your CUP will remain in effect as long as you continue to use the property as an STR. If you do not begin renting the property within one year, stop renting for a year, or fail to comply with the conditions of the permit, the CUP will be deemed void.

Contact McCarthy & Akers Today

Are you considering turning one of your properties into a short-term rental? You should strongly consider reaching out to an experienced real estate attorney. Applying for a conditional use permit is complicated. Our real estate lawyers can help file your application and ensure it is completed accurately and on time. We are deeply familiar with zoning laws in Virginia and understand the nuances of the application process. You don’t want your application to be denied because you didn’t submit everything required on time. Contact McCarthy & Akers for a free consultation today. You don’t have to navigate complicated zoning laws on your own.

Copyright© 2022. McCarthy & Akers, PLC. All rights reserved.

The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

McCarthy & Akers, PLC
302 W Boscawen St.
Winchester, VA 22601
(540) 277-9865


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