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New Virginia Law to Crack Down on Illegal Boarding Houses

Sen. Chap Petersen (Fairfax City) introduced the bill, which will make it easier for local officials to enforce a growing number of zoning violations across Fairfax County.

A new Virginia law will make it easier for localities to prosecute the renters behind illegal boarding houses.

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the bill, SB 894, into law in March, giving local officials the power to issue summons and fines directly to renters, leasers or subleasers for zoning violations. Sen. Chap Petersen introduced the bill. 

"Unfortunately illegal boarding houses have become a problem in Virginia,” Petersen said in a statement. “What this law means is that if you have an illegal boarding house in your community, law enforcement can go directly to the person living in that home and breaking the law."

In Virginia, no more than four unrelated people are legally allowed to live in a single-family home.

But last year NBC Washington’s I-Team uncovered a growing problem with boarding houses in Fairfax County. In one instance, nine people were living under the same roof.

NBC’s reporters discovered a man was renting a house and then going behind his landlord’s back, leasing the rooms out to seven more people.

In that case — before the new law was in effect — officials could only prosecute the landlord, who hadn’t known anything was wrong, Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) told Patch.

Once violations were brought to a landlord’s attention,he or she could evict the tenant, but the process could be slow, Herrity said.

“Our laws were set up to only go after the landowner,” Herrity told Patch. “We couldn’t get to the bad guy.”

Herrity said Petersen’s bill fixes the problem. Now, summons and fines can be delivered directly to the renter of a property, an efficiency officials hope will allow to crack down on illegal boarding houses that can harm neighborhoods.

Although there is no way for the county to know how many illegal boarding houses may exist, county representatives said the Department of Code Compliance received 877 complaints of overcrowding in 2012. Herrity said there are currently 15 cases under investigation in Springfield.

The new law will take effect July 1.

Beth Lawton April 03, 2013 at 01:16 PM
@ClintJCL - Your comment was fine except for the curse in it. We had to delete it for that reason. Feel free to recomment, though.
Nasir Jadran April 03, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Chap well done. I believe we need to make similar laws where landowners are renting houses on both levels to unrelated problems. I hope this will curb this practice.
chap pareos April 03, 2013 at 09:43 PM
now we have to deport the illegals
Cathy Caplan April 04, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Its a step in the right direction. However, the ILLEGAL ALIENS will not care about silly fines. They will not show up in court and will just move into another illegal boarding house. DEPORT THEM.
Non Boarding house renter April 07, 2013 at 01:12 PM
It would be awesome if Chap or any Northern VA lawmaker addressed the problem that leads to boarding houses: the outrageously high cost of rent in the area.

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