Mayor Ed Lee has signed San Francisco’s so-called “Airbnb ordinance” into law, officially legalizing but limiting short-term rentals in the city.

As approved by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors by a vote of 7-4 earlier this month, the new law allows a permanent resident of the city to rent out their primary residence on a short-term basis for a total of up to 90 days a year, or up to 365 days if the host is “present” during the stay.

While hosts will be required to register their units with the city, the registry will not be made available to the public, except by way of a formal public records request, and hosts will be responsible for self-reporting their compliance with the law.

San Francisco’s Short-Term Residential Rentals Ordinance becomes operative on February 1, 2015.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Sam

    So does that mean the unit next to me that has a different set of people every few days is now illegal? The landlord damn sure doesn’t live there, it’s just an empty very rentable unit.

    [Editor’s Note: Nope, it’s still illegal. And it will remain illegal once the new law takes effect.]

  2. Posted by MarinaBoy

    No Sam, you can report the owner, it needs to be his primary residence!

    • Posted by Keepitup

      Here come the Stasi.

      • Posted by Keepitup

        Forgot to mention to see name link Stasi…..One of its main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants………..

  3. Posted by Sam

    Oh, well well. Thank you for the info.

  4. Posted by 4Oceans

    Sam, get ready for an endless run around. As far as I can tell, this law is utterly useless. All the owner has to do is keep one room “open” and claim residency. I’ve got the same thing next to me. My neighbor is doing so well they’re buying additional homes throughout SF. All are AirBnB hotels. People come and go from my block constantly. I’m ready to start a valet parking service. This is a slippery slope. No use trying to maintain a residential quality or character once it starts, better to just rent out your own house and join the parade.

    • Posted by Sam

      Yea I share a backyard with the AirBnB rental, which is a problem for a lot of reasons. One I have a lot of stuff back there that transients have no interest in being nice to. For instance furniture, a picnic table I bought and love, also my bike that I now keep locked.

      Also we have dogs, and on two occasions the idiots left the door to the street open so one of our my adventurous dogs got out. Luckily I realized it soon enough and found her in the street.

      • Posted by Jill

        I would not allow airbnb use from a neighbor witha shared backyard. This is definitely not ok, safe are rationale for transients to have access to your home and use of ur stuff. You should heartily complain and do what you can to stop it

    • Posted by Gur

      No, the owner must be the primary owner and be present during the rental. Buying properties for the express use for this purpose just doesn’t make sense.

    • Posted by Pawlo

      An owner can claim one residency only. He/she can try to game the system but once caught a payback will be huge.

  5. Posted by d-b

    According to Wille Brown yesterday:

    “Sen. Dianne Feinstein tells me that if Mayor Ed Lee signs the Board of Supervisors’ legislation legalizing Airbnb-style rentals, she’ll support an effort to overturn it at the ballot.
    It would be one heck of a fight for Lee to face when he’s up for re-election next year, but Feinstein is serious in her belief that the proliferation of short-term rentals in the city will destroy the neighborhoods.
    When we talked the other day, she had pictures of some of the homes that are being rented out to tourists and the like. Homes with no pictures on the walls or any other evidence that anyone lives there.
    Her fear is that speculators are going to start buying houses throughout the city just to farm them out at daily rates that get around rent laws.”

    This should be interesting going forward.

  6. Posted by ck

    Does Feinstein still carry weight in SF? Does she even qualify as a resident? From what I can tell, she caused a fair bit of problems that the city is still dealing with.

  7. Posted by MarinaBoy

    I agree with Dianne Feinstein on this. You can only have ONE Primary Residence on your tax fillings so it should be pretty easy to figure out who is lying and trying to cheat the system!

  8. Posted by jimmy

    Feinstein is a billionaire and has no clue what its like for some people to scrap by on a monthly basis. Some people really need the funds from these type of stays in order to survive.

    • Posted by Jill

      How did those people survive 5 yrs ago before airbnb?

      • Posted by Jim C

        We have lived in our house for 22 years. Five years ago we barely scraped by and watched our home fall apart, leaking roof, leaking plumbing, failed furnace, crumbling foundation, broken windows. With airbnb we can keep our old home in good repair and meet wonderful travelers from all over the world. This is our one and only home. Airbnb guests stay in the spare bedroom and share our living room and kitchen. Feinstein would prefer we just sell out to some tech zillionaire and get the f*#k out of her town. It breaks my heart to hear the vitriol from people in this city I have called home for almost 30 years.

      • Posted by NoeValleyJim

        When I bought my first place, I rented out a room in my house to an old friend from college and my wife and I lived in the other bedroom. That is what most San Franciscans do, they let out rooms to longer term tenants. Before that I shared a big house where the landlord rented out multiple rooms. We don’t really need AirBnB to do this.

    • Posted by James

      If the place is too big for you, move out to get a smaller place or sublet. You shouldn’t be commercializing limited residential resources at the expense of your neighbors. If you’re the owner, then I doubt “survival” was ever your concern.

    • Posted by Lee Ross

      Too bad. I was totally dismayed by these Fair Share folks who testified at every hearing in favor of this legislation. And i sat through every hearing/ The testimony was maudlin and pathetic. What was even more creepy was the silent raising and lower of hands during by Fair Share acolytes during the October 7 Board meeting. Supervisor Mar was quite right when he described the Fair Shares folks as having followed him around and called them “Cult like.”

  9. Posted by Conifer

    Feinstein has a very fine house on the Lyon Street steps, far too nice to ever be used as a rental.

  10. Posted by Jackson

    CK, Why all the snark saying Senator Feinstein doesn’t reside in San Francisco? Just because you might not agree with her doesn’t give you license to demonize.

  11. Posted by ck

    I am not demonizing, I just want to know how close she is to this issue. I would think that the head of the senate intelligence comittee has better things to do with her time than be worried about airbnb rentals, but point taken, apologies if the comment came off as snarky.
    P.S. Also it is rumored that she is condsidering moving out of S.F. to Marin to be closer to her grandkids.

  12. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    Just another side effect of overzealous rent control. Not the first and not the worst. Deal with the root cause!

  13. Posted by Joel S.

    Most leases have a clause that prohibits sub-leasing. Would this law supercede such a lease clause?

    • Posted by Jake

      No, the law explicit states that it does not.

  14. Posted by San FronziScheme

    Rent control created this situation. This is the nth whack-a-mole shot that the city takes to squash the head of anyone who dares to try and make a living with his rental.

    Even with high rates, the efforts and costs put into an airbnb rental will bring you marginally higher returns than market rate. Why do it then, instead of going the easy route of the regular lease? The cautionary tales of long term tenants that you can witness by the 10s of 1000s all around the City.

    I would LOVE to put my property on the regular market, but I cannot do that if I want to have to sort of control on what my future income will be compared with my costs. What if inflation kicks in like 1975-1985? I would be utterly screwed, with places that cost more than they bring in.

    Therefore I will stay on airbnb, with my business model conforming to the rule of law. The people who are screwed are the newcomers.

    Only high earners can come to the city now, so that the long-term tenants can keep their cheap rent.

  15. Posted by Keepitup

    “No Sam, you can report the owner, it needs to be his primary residence!”

    So for those not old enough to remember what living in East Germany was like and what it was like to live under constant fear of your spying neighbors…see name link. “The Lives of Others” is a fabulous novel and now a movie which will give us a preview of where the future of San Francisco is now headed…….

    • Posted by San FronziScheme

      I agree it will bring the 311 complaints to a new level of unfriendliness.

      Otherwise, in the DDR there was no other option but to stay in the confines of the DDR. At least San Franciscans can pack up and leave if they feel too oppressed by their fellow citizen.

  16. Posted by REpornaddict

    What if you have a 2 unit building, live upstairs but have the bottom unit empty.

    Can the lower unit be Air BnB’ed out?

    • Posted by Jake

      Technically, whoever is listing the unit has to reside in the unit.
      I know a guy that owns a 2 unit building in SF and lives in another nearby. His adult daughter lives in the one of the units and the other is currently rented out on an annual lease. When that lease is up, he could probably get away with establishing the second unit as the residence of his adult son, who actually lives with the parents. Then he (or technically his son) can airbnb as much as he wants and even pass the income through his son’s lower tax basis.

      • Posted by oscar

        i don’t think that’s right. there is a 3 month limit on renting out the entire place. if you are present you can rent out other rooms for an unlimited number of days.

        • Posted by San FronziScheme

          What you are forgetting is that

          1) it’s 90 days total stay meaning there will be downtime between guests. Let’s 3 days stays and one day off. Suddenly we’re on a 120 day timeline. If someone is cashing out only on week-ends, this could mean almost ll week-ends of the year.

          2) The limit is for short stays, < 30. Nothing prevents you to use the unit for longer stays beyond the 90 days.

          There are loopholes bit enough for a food truck in this law, and the key is enforcement. And we all know that enforcement in SF starts with a 311 call…

          • Posted by Gur

            1) It’s 90 rental nights per year; there is no way to stretch that other than the overlap days on arrival and departure.
            2) You would still be subject to standard tenancy laws and nothing prevents this type of rental today.

            A two unit building would be subject to the restrictions. The primary loophole is with in-law units — the illegal kind. Enforcement of these is already poor and this increases the incentive.

          • Posted by San FronziScheme

            With regard to 2) the trick with these rentals is that they are more expensive than regular rentals. 15 to 20% therefore there’s only a very slight chance someone will ask to officialize a long term lease. But it could happen. A friend in Noe once rented out his sweet 2BR garden apartment for 3600 3 years ago through airbnb. The tenant asked to stay for a full year after the 2-months stay was up. My friend couldn’t say no. The tenant ended up buying and left the place. But had he kept the place he’d be unlikely to find a furnished place as interesting in a similar location for that price today.

      • Posted by Jake

        well, it is not right in that it isn’t legal, but in this scenario, how is SF going to know if the son is present during the rentals or not? Who is going to check? What counts as present, pick up the mail, hand over the key, change the linens?
        Presumably Aribnb is collecting and paying the 14% tax to SF and the owner/occupant is declaring the income. So, the various taxmen are happy. Unless someone complains, I don’t think SF will pay any attention.

        • Posted by San FronziScheme

          I cannot speak for everyone, but my statement has a new column with “Occupancy Taxes”. Airbnb did warn me they’d start collecting a few weeks back. And as I planned, the amount is $0 since I am outside the scope of short-term.

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