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'It turned out to be an absolute nightmare' | Tenant concerned over landlord's unpermitted Airbnb

County records show the owner of 7836 Frances Dickens Lane in Annandale continues to operate an Airbnb without a proper county permit.

ANNANDALE, Va. — When Nycole-Lanyse Jacques signed a lease to rent a room in an Annandale house in January, what she didn’t expect was a revolving door of people.

“I knew she rented it out to other people,” explained Jacques. “But I didn't realize it would be part Airbnb, part tenants, and the house would be rented like a hotel."

Jacques said months into living in the house, more people moved in eventually filling every room in the four-bedroom house. She said at one point, upwards of seven people were living in 7836 Francis Dickens Lane. She said most of those in the house, responded to listings on Airbnb.  

The Airbnb listing we located is for a bedroom in the Annandale home where Jacques lives. The room costs $52.00 a night for a minimum of 30 days.

Credit: WUSA 9

Jacques showed us around the house on Frances Dickens lane; pointing out the assigned spaces and the trash cans that correspond with each room.

But our investigation revealed an ongoing issue.

Fairfax County code inspectors have been to this house at least half a dozen times in the last nine months, according to inspection reports WUSA9 received in a Freedom of Information Act request.

In a statement to WUSA9, Fairfax officials said the owner, named in public records and other rental agreements as Jinhua Feng or 'Jenny' does not have a permit to operate an Airbnb out of her house.

“There are no pending, active, expired short-term lodging permits for 7836 Francis Dickens Lane,” said Barbara Byron, Director of Fairfax County Department of Planning and Developing in a statement.

Credit: WUSA 9

"It was set up like a fairy tale and it turned out to be an absolute nightmare,” said Jacques as she reflected on living in the house.

Fairfax County zoning regulations say no more than four unrelated people may live in one house. And to operate an Airbnb the operator must apply for a $200-dollar short-term lodging permit and actually live in the residence.

When asked if Jinhua Feng lived in the home, Jacques explained, “She never lived in this house since I’ve been here in January.”

Inspection reports from Fairfax County reveal multiple zoning complaints about the property. It was those complaints that prompted an investigation by the Fairfax County Department of Code Compliance. 

In a report dated February 24, the inspector said he met with Feng writing, “I explained to them both if they were to continue to rent rooms through Airbnb, that they would need to apply for the permit and adhere to all regulations pertaining to Short Term Rentals. This would involve having someone permanently living here in the home.”

Months later in June 2021, in another report, the inspector noted there were six people living in the four-bedroom house.

“The homeowner, Mrs. Feng, has converted the downstairs study room into an additional room. Now, advertising that this is a 5-bedroom unit to rent,” noted the inspector in his report.

That means months after the owner was informed that a permit and adherence to county regulations were needed to operate an Airbnb, not much had changed.

Currently, Jacques said only two people maybe three people are living in the house. The county has a process for looking into these complaints and determining violations. Fairfax County officials told us it begins with inspections by county inspectors. The inspectors must determine if there’s enough evidence for a violation. Once that’s determined, a notice of violation is submitted. The owner is then given a reasonable amount of time to take corrective action. If no action is taken, code compliance may move forward with legal action which could result in fines.

The process raises questions for Jacques.

“How much time does a person get to do things the wrong way before they get held accountable,” she asked. 

Fairfax County officials told WUSA9 they have not issued a notice of violation for Mrs. Feng but said they are investigating a short-term lodging complaint at the property.

We reached out to Feng three times to learn more. She declined an interview and refused to comment.

As for Jacques, she’s planning to leave. In her mind, the sooner she can go, the better for her.

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