While it has yet be announced or officially publicized, we have the link to the requirements, application and procedure for registering a short-term rental unit in San Francisco in order to comply with the City’s so-called “Airbnb law” which goes into effect on February 1.  Start preparing now.

The application will have to be filed in person by the permanent resident registering the unit and will be accepted by appointment only starting on February 2, 2015, the day after the new law becomes effective.  From the Planning Department:

Applications must be filed in person by the permanent resident whose name will appear on the registry. Applications may not be filed by representatives or agents. Drop-ins or dropped off applications will not be accepted. The Planning Department will begin conducting intake appointments on Monday, February 2nd. To schedule an intake appointment, please call 415-575-9179 after Monday, January 26th.

The applicant must be the permanent resident (owner or tenant) of the unit he or she wishes to rent short-term. This means a resident must live in that specific unit for at least 275 nights of any given calendar year. Second homes in which they do not spend at least 275 nights of any given calendar year are not eligible. New residents must have occupied the specific unit for at least 60 consecutive days prior to application. If a resident owns a multi-unit building, only the specific unit in which they reside is eligible.

In addition to a completed application and proof of permanent residency, the registration of a short-term rental will require a valid Business Registration Certificate issued by the San Francisco Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office, proof of liability insurance in the amount of no less than $500,000, a signed affidavit agreeing to abide by all conditions of the short-term residential rental ordinance, and a $50 check.

Tenants registering an apartment will also need to provide a copy of their lease or rental agreement.  And note, “the Planning Department will send a notice to the owner(s) of your unit, informing the owner(s) that your application has been received.”

The processing of an application is expected to be completed within 15 days of being filed, after which a “Short-Term Residential Rental” certificate and Registration Number will be delivered by mail.

While already illegal but effectively unenforced, “you may not rent [or advertise] your unit (in all or a portion) as a short-term residential rental until you have received a Short-Term Residential Rental Registration number from the Planning Department.”

And once a unit is registered, there are still a number of things one may not legally do, such as: rent a residential unit or a portion thereof for more than 90 nights per calendar year while one is not also present during the time of their guests’ stay; rent any illegal residential units or unpermitted spaces; or make more than your monthly rent from short-term rental fees if you are a tenant.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by David

    How many people are going to actually bother registering? Most people aren’t going to have $500k in liability insurance already, so that will be an added expense. How much does a Business Registration Certificate cost (time and money)?

    • Posted by Ham

      With the racket that is SF housing, they can easily afford that amount of insurance.

      • Posted by joey

        Unreasonable and burdensome. Limiting income up to monthly rent? Sounds like the Commerce Commission and corporate hotel owners are preventing “mom and pop” competition from developing. Functionally killing it in the crib. Me thinks some lawyers are going to make some money.

        • Posted by Dubocian

          It’s already illegal for tenants to rent all or part of their units in excess of their monthly rent. This has been the case for years, decades even.

      • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

        If you do these kind of rentals you want to be covered up to a good portion of your net worth. With housing values, 500k is a pretty conservative number. I have an umbrella policy several times that amount

    • Posted by Joe

      It’s easy. Since they need to acquire a number to be legal, AirBnB would require listings to have a number. If you don’t have a number, you can’t put up your listing.

  2. Posted by Schlub

    Thanks Socketsite for posting this invaluable information. The city has been so cryptic about it, finally there’s some clarity.

  3. Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

    I predict very few people are going to complete this process. Another SF government failure in the making.

  4. Posted by otherooms

    Yes, thank you SocketSite for this information! Question: I believe the rent board has a proportionality rule for master tenants who sublet. (For example, if you rent one bedroom to a long-term roommate in an apartment with two equal-sized bedrooms, and share the rest of the space, you can’t collect more that half your rent from your roommate.) Since the post says a tenant can’t “make more than [the] monthly rent from short-term rental fees…” does this mean that the new law overrides established administrative law in cases where the permanent resident shares with the guest?

  5. Posted by sfgwf

    We have a 2-unit building, one unit is a studio, the building was constructed after 1979 so we are not restricted by rent control. We use the studio for visiting family and friends and rent it out furnished for 30+ days at other times which is completely legal. Currently, we do not market it, we rely solely on word-of-mouth and requests via private neighborhood email lists and have no problems finding tenants for the times we want to rent it. If we were to rent it out short-term, which would still be illegal under the new law since we reside in the larger unit upstairs, we could only rent it out for no more than 2 reservations per month (per home-sharing coverage clause) otherwise our homeowner’s insurance would be invalidated for the building. So basically, short-term rentals aren’t worth the hassle in our case, much easier to find someone who needs a place for 1 month or longer and just not deal with any of it.

  6. Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

    I do 30+ day stays and am not impacted by this new law. But I do think many hosts will not bother with these rules. I see 3 cases: 1) people who will still do it 2) people who will flock into the 1 month+ business and with oversupply will come cheaper rent in that segment. Since people are not stupid they will not rent out for less than a regular lease price and 3) some of the owners will put their place on the regular market since price and vacancy will be an issue.

  7. Posted by soccermom

    This seems like a great way to introduce enterprising tenants to the vagaries of city regulation.

    Of course, it just means the rules will likely be ignored. Looking forward to a big expose and triumphant announcement from the planning commission when some master tenant with two (2!) capitalist AirBnB listing is proved to be ducking the rules in 6-8 months.

    • Posted by Jake

      Yes, when I asked Chiu’s legislative aid about enforcement back when they proposed this law, she was clear that they weren’t going to put any money into it and it would be complaint driven. SF BOS version of ‘laissez faire’ as ‘lazy unfair’.

      • Posted by anon

        Then why bother codifying into law. Imagine you were a foreign investor thinking about buying income/rental property in SF. Your real estate agent (if he/she was doing his/her job) or lawyer would need to advise you of the Rent Control laws. Your English skills may be limited, you are parting with a decent chunk of cash, you are forced to ‘trust” the advice you are getting, and on top of that, and you still need to know that while some laws must be adhere to, others are really not enforced (nudge, nudge, wink, wink,) is there any logical reason why you would not just move on to a simpler and more straightforward place to invest your hard earned money?

        Thirty or forty years ago, the US was a country where its people and laws were for the most part just, straightforward, and honest. There has been steady decline or erosion of that spirit. The rest of world has caught up and in many ways offer a better standard of living. It is depressing to have to tell a Japanese national running a small business in SF that this is how the City does things (for no good reason but greed.)

        • Posted by Jake

          This amendment to an existing law gives property owners a new right which at their discretion they may grant to their tenants. I suspect some property owners will charge more for this and some will want to exclude all hosting from their buildings. Just as some tenants will be willing to pay extra for this right and some will want to live in non-hosting buildings. This could also be an opportunity for property management companies to specialize in either running hosting buildings or rooting out rogue hosting.
          Enforcement of the old law that made much of the ‘hosting’ going on in SF illegal was largely complaint driven. Now at least many of those hosts have an option to do this within the law. And this does give us a crude framework that can be reworked with experience, which is much better than a crude ballot initiative.
          Given the long and not always easy history of Japanese nationals in San Francisco, I would hope whoever you have been advising has no illusions about how things were done in the past vs now or the prominent role of greed in business.

  8. Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

    Landlords rejoice! Illegal use of a unit is “just cause” for eviction, even of a rent control unit. Pretty close to nobody is going to follow every one of these rules. If you see your unit being airbnb’ed, your route to eviction just got easier.

    • Posted by SFrentier

      Bingo. Following these asinine rules to the letter of “the law” will be virtually impossible. I don’t even think the Planning Department is taking this seriously, but rather are obligated to put on a straight face and codify what the BOS cooked up. No one in their right mind is going to go through with registering. A few will go 30+ days, a few will drop off, and most will carry on, business as usual. So unless an annoyed neighbor rats you out, this thing is a giant circle jerk. But, this does have the nice potential to catch a few tenants in an act of illegal use. Thanks again BOS, another unintended win for landlords!

  9. Posted by Dubocian

    “Another” unintended win for landlords? Wins for landlords in this town, whether unintended or not, are few and far between. I don’t remember the last one. So I’ll say THANKS, BOS, for a rare win for landlords!

  10. Posted by sf103

    I’m an airbnb host. Interesting that there hasn’t been a peep from airbnb about the upcoming regs. When they started collecting hotel tax for the city they informed us repeatedly despite it requiring no action by hosts or guests. Charades, anyone?

    • Posted by Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

      as long as the mayor and bos pretend to govern, we pretend to be governed.

  11. Posted by SFer

    Why bother submitting your name on this list?
    As all tenant activists seek to protect themselves, the more and more landlords simply stop renting. Simple.
    Get rid of Rent Control and Airbnb will disappear.

  12. Posted by wanda peterson

    My building has 15 units with 1/3 being rented out by the owners as full-time Air BnB’s.
    Would love the city to come in and change that as our “temp tenants” expect us to be the landlord when a problem occurs!

  13. Posted by anon

    As a landlord who would have a problem with my tenants subletting via AirBnB or anyone of the housing sharing sites, this predicament forces me to evaluate prospective tenants even tougher. If you aren’t pulling in a high enough income and are just a mid-range earner, I have to think about whether you need to AirBnB the place to make ends meet. If you do, chances are you are the type of person who wants to reap all the rewards while sticking me with the problems. Unless you vastly improve my place so you can generate higher AirBnB income and not bother me with minor things, I am willing to look the other way. Either way, the increased use of my time to monitor, take risks, etc. will result in higher rents. Yup, tenants pay for being high maintenance. Welcome to the business world!

    • Posted by Lori

      How do you know that your tenants who use AirBnB don’t use the money for things other than to just make ends meet? Someone on my block used AirBnB to pay for all her overseas vacations over the past few years. I feel sorry for your tenants, it sounds as if you’re the kind of landlord who is looking to just rake in cash without properly maintaining your properties. If you don’t want do deal with tenants and you have the attitude that they’re “sticking” you with problems, I can only imagine what kind of deferred maintenance your tenants are enduring.

  14. Posted by Paco

    How do I report units that are being rented illegally? The unit underneath me evicted 4 students and has been a permanent airBnB for a few months now. It makes me sick what is happening in the city.

  15. Posted by SF resident

    Report it, and the landlord will probably evict you! Let’s just get rid of rent control, landlords are only resorting to Airbnb because the laws have become more ridiculous. Less regulation = more rentals & lower prices.
    Don’t be fooled by the Sups who just want to keep you in your place.
    This is AMERICA!

  16. Posted by medalist

    The law should really include prohibition of tenants to rent their unit out for more than the prorata daily rental value. As someone pointed out on another comment section, tenants can rent out a room, or the whole place for only a few nights ($200+), stay at their girlfriends place and pay a huge part or even their whole monthly rent.

  17. Posted by San FronziScheme

    My business model on airbnb relies on 30+ days stays. But there are some times when I have more than a one-week between 2 guests. Using this, my fill rate goes from 85% to 92%. That’s significant but not a show-stopper. With better planning / more patience I could get to 90%. Plus the people I get for 1 to 2-weeks stays are a different crowd from the corporate-stay-types. They are much less respectful, more high maintenance and they’ll party and break stuff. Not worth the headache. Buh Bye short stays.

    • Posted by Anon

      how do your neighbors feel about your air b and b business?

      • Posted by Anon

        sorry, second question. and would you care if they had fair reason to object?

    • Posted by Anon

      you post on here 30 times every day, but you can’t answer those questions? weird

      • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

        Uh?

        1 – 30 times every day? Please look at my post history today or any day this week and pull these 30. Even 20. Even 5 a day.

        2 – I am in a situation where neighbors cannot be impacted. Also, I do 30+ days. A very different kind of crowd, low turnover, very corporate and very quiet.

        3 – They cannot object since 1) they have no leverage on my property like in an HOA, 2) I own my property and therefore no landlord to account to 3) As I have said before, I do only 30+ days. Therefore no cause for snitching because nothing I do is actually outside of the law.

        Did I answer your questions?

        • Posted by Anon

          “in a situation where neighbors cannot be impacted” = how? you must have had some noisy + party types before, given your previous answers. How did they not effect your neighbors?

          • Posted by San FronziScheme

            Grasping at straws. There was one occurrence of someone staying 2 weeks who had his family over for the week-end. They broke some glasses and didn’t replace. No neighbor ever complained, especially in the Castro! But I was not too happy because I am used to very considerate people who replace what they break.

          • Posted by Anon

            “grasping at straws” ? I’m not grasping at anything. This is not an argument. I am curious about the subject as I have a place myself that I could potentially rent out this way, so I asked.

          • Posted by San FronziScheme

            You got a bit agressive. I took your posts as snarks. I was offline for travel then I see someone asking question after question then asking why I am not answering.

            I cannot really give you much advise since every case is different. But for me short term is a pain. financially, you could charge 20 to 40% than monthly, but you have to allow for cleaning. Rent 3 days, leave empty for 1 day, rent for 3 days. And you’re lucky of it’s only 1 day off. More often than not your place will have guests around week-ends only and will be empty 30 to 40% of the time. The person doing the job (if you’re paying someone) will charge you more, cutting into your income. You have to find your sweet spot.

            One nice thing I love about being able to airbnb long term in SF is that almost everywhere else in the world is going to be cheaper. This means you can travel, live in another country, city, if your job allows it. Heck there are even places in Tribeca of East Village that are cheaper (long term) than a similar place in SF.

  18. Posted by GK

    Since the landlord receives a notification, that I as a long term tenant, have registered for AirBnb. Can the landlord object given that most short rental agreements don’t allow for short term rentals?

    • Posted by Morgan Driver

      If you were my tenant, I would begin eviction proceedings immediately upon learning of your AirBnb registration.

      • Posted by san FronziScheme (formerly known as lol)

        Yes, step 1 should be to have the paperwork straightened with the landlord. This is subletting, and subletting must be agreed to on the lease. Otherwise this is cause for termination of the lease agreement. IANAL

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      if you register with airBnB before getting approval from your landlord to do so, you can and probably should be evicted.

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