December 6, 2023

Short-Term Rentals: What to Expect When Filing a Complaint

Know who to call and the process for resolution.

Beach Houses

If your neighbors throw a party and it starts to get out of hand, it’s easy enough reach out to the Police Department’s non-emergency line (757-385-5000) to request they enforce the City's noise ordinance. But, it is a different matter entirely when the music and noise is emanating from a nearby home that is rented out weekly/monthly for vacations, celebrations and more as a short-term rental.

A short-term rental (STR) is defined as an entire dwelling rented for less than 30 consecutive days for compensation.

Short-term rentals have revolutionized vacations by offering an alternative to hotel stays. Travelers are finding it is a great way to save money or get more accommodation for their buck. However, municipalities, including Virginia Beach, are facing some challenges in ensuring STR properties are compliant with permits, codes and regulations.

The City has been diligently working to get a handle on balancing the rights of STR property owners and full time residents. In 2019, the City Council adopted STR regulations into the Zoning Ordinance, which allowed the City to begin enforcing these regulations and enacting penalties for non-compliance.

Filing an STR Complaint

The STR Ordinance requires that every individual STR property post a 4-by-4-foot sign advising the public to report a noise violation or other complaint by dialing 3-1-1 or directing general complaints to a 24/7 hotline, 757-210-5385.

All complaints are filtered to the Zoning Office. The process of addressing violations involves many steps and can take some time. Once a complaint is received, the Planning Department’s STR team, consisting of three inspectors and a supervisor, begins looking into the matter within a day or two. The investigation into the violation and determining if the property is legally operating may involve interviewing homeowners and neighbors, site visits and online research. This stage of the process usually takes one to two weeks.

Summonses and Fines

If the violation is substantiated, the City will issue a civil summons which has an associated court date. Typically, the court date is scheduled 60 days out for a first-time offender and 30 days for a repeat offender. This gives the owner or property manager time to come into compliance through the proper permitting process.

Alternatively, the owner or property manager may elect to pre-pay the associated fine before the matter ever goes in front of a judge. In that instance, the owner admits to the violation, pays the fine, the violation is closed and the STR continues to operate.

If the owner does not prepay the fine and ends up going to court, the judge can either assess fines or dismiss the case. The fines for a violation are $200 for the first offense, $500 for every offense thereafter and fines of more than $5,000 may be pursued as a criminal misdemeanor.

In the case of repeat offenders, should going to court fail to resolve the violation, the City has the option to issue an injunction or issue a summons every 10 days the offense remains.

Since February 2022, the City has issued 269 summonses:

  • About half, or 136, were resolved through voluntary compliance – either the online advertisement was removed and the property was no longer available to rent, or the proper permit was obtained.
  • In 48 cases, fines were paid prior to the court date.
  • The court ruled in the City’s favor by imposing a penalty 38 times.
  • A judge dismissed seven of the cases.
  • In 40 cases, the City was unable to serve the summonses.

The Zoning Office is finding that some owners treat the fines as a “cost of doing business,” prepay the fine and continue to operate the unpermitted STR. Staff members are also finding that some owners take steps to avoid being served the summons.

Process Improvement

Now that the ordinance has been in effect for a few years, data collected over that time has allowed the Zoning Office to identify some areas that need to be evaluated and begin work to determine how the enforcement process may be improved. The Virginia Beach City Council is discussing the creation of a STR taskforce to study the issues. As this process moves forward, there will be opportunities for public input.

To learn more about short-term rentals in Virginia Beach, watch this presentation from the Nov. 28 City Council meeting or visit For questions, email To stay informed about the latest developments with STRs and other City updates, subscribe to the City of Virginia Beach’s weekly email newsletter, “Be in the Know,” at

Contact Information

Planning: Short-Term Rentals

Keep Reading

See All Posts