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The advent of the sharing economy has meant new opportunities and new challenges for local governments, associations, and homeowners. Despite changing times, Reston has an obligation to uphold and enforce its covenants in accordance with their terms and conditions, and as informed or interpreted by local ordinances, when appropriate.. Fairfax County recently issued guidance on its interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance with regard to short-term rentals and Reston has begun enforcing its own covenants in accordance with that interpretation.
From the Fairfax County Zoning Enforcement Administrator and the Fairfax County website:
“Short-term property rental has become increasingly popular. Websites like www.airbnb.com encourage people to earn extra money by sharing their homes with travelers. Airbnb encourages “responsible hosting,” which includes complying with local laws and regulations.
The Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance governs how County residents may use their properties. The Zoning Ordinance prohibits most property owners from serving as Airbnb hosts because nothing in the Zoning Ordinance permits renting dwellings or rooms in dwellings for short periods of time without approval of a special exception by the Board of Supervisors to make a home a bed and breakfast.
The Zoning Ordinance defines “bed and breakfast” as “a single family detached dwelling unit which is owner or manager occupied, in which five (5) or fewer guest rooms without cooking facilities are rented to transient visitors for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days.”
You may apply for this special exception if:
• You live in a single family home.
• You live in one of the following districts: R-P, R-C, R-E, R-1, R-2, PDH or PRC.”
For additional information, please visit: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/code/property/property-rental.htm
All of Reston Association’s residences fall within one of these zoning districts. Those residences that are not within the above-listed districts cannot use their residences for short-term property rental and cannot apply for a special exception allowing them to do so. Thus, the short-term rental of property within Reston Association through AirBnb and similar sites violates the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance unless a Member obtains a special exception from Fairfax County.
As the County has determined that short-term rentals such as those through AirBnB are in violation of the Zoning Ordinance, Reston has evaluated its own obligations to its members to enforce its covenants incorporating the Zoning Ordinance.
Under Section 6.2(a) of Reston’s Master Deed, “no Lot shall be used for purposes other than the purposes for which such Lot is zoned and designed and which are permissible under local zoning ordinances.” Unless and until an owner obtains a special exception from Fairfax County allowing for bed and breakfast use, such use is not permissible under the Zoning Ordinance. The Reston Master Deed requires that all uses comply with the Zoning Ordinance and further gives Reston the power to enforce its covenants, including those incorporating the Zoning Ordinance. Therefore, AirBnb use within Reston is both a violation of the Zoning Ordinance and the Reston Covenants.
In addition, Section 6.2(b)(17) of the Master Deed provides that “no residential Lot… shall ever be used for any business,… or other non-residential purpose, provided, however, that a Member may maintain an office or home business in the improvement on such Member’s Lot if: … (v) such Member has obtained any required approvals for such use from the appropriate local governmental agency; (vi) the activity is consistent with the residential nature of the Property and complies with local ordinances…” Again, the Reston Master Deed requires County approval for any business use of the Member’s Lot and compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. As noted above, short-term rental or bed and breakfast use of a Member’s Lot does not comply with the Zoning Ordinance without a special exception and, therefore, such use violates Section 6.2(b)(17) of the Master Deed.
Reston has a duty to its Members to enforce the covenants and restrictions put in place to preserve the character and serenity that has made Reston the community it is today. As the County has now officially determined that short-term rentals violate the Zoning Ordinance, Reston has a duty to enforce the covenants incorporating the Zoning Ordinance and to take action against Members in violation thereof.
If you have any questions please contact the Reston Covenants Team.