According to Airbnb, there are nearly 9,500 listings for short-term rentals in San Francisco on Airbnb alone, listed by 7,046 unique hosts.

According to the City, it has received a total of 1,647 applications to register as a legal host.

And as such, it would appear that roughly 77 percent of all hosts in San Francisco remain out of compliance with the City’s registration requirement which has been in place for over a year.

In addition, an estimated 26.1 percent of listings for “un-hosted” stays appear to have been rented for more than 90 nights a year, with a median of 180 nights, which violates the City’s 90-night cap.

And in terms of enforcement, the City’s dedicated Office of Short-Term Rentals, which has an operating budget of $900,000 a year, has so far pursued 322 enforcement cases against the aforementioned 5,400 scofflaws, which has resulted in a grand total of 79 notices of violation and $680,000 in assessed penalties, according to a just released accounting of Short Term rental activity in San Francisco prepared by the City.

38 thoughts on “Vast Majority of Hometown Airbnb Hosts Remain Scofflaws”
  1. Airbnb should support their hosts who have jumped through all the hoops to get registered by suspending those who have not. That would show they are serious about helping with enforcement. Everyone can be sure the progressive Board of Supervisors will be happy to regulate the platform and the hosts if Airbnb refuses to.

    1. airBNB shuld also be fined for these people out of compliance, and then they could place pressure on their users

      1. Great idea. A $10 per day fine for every unregistered host listed on their platform effective July 1. That would give hosts time to register and airbnb time to sort the scofflaws out of their platform.

      2. If only there was a way for Airbnb to keep track of whether their hosts are properly registered and for Airbnb to collect and remit the occupancy tax to the city. Perhaps if they had a computing machine of some sort…

        1. If only they hadn’t lobbied against having to do that. I wonder how much income Airbnb has received from illegal rentals in SF. Millions? I wonder how much more they will pocket. If only we had a BOS and Mayor to make these simple fixes.

          As RE scofflaws go, Airbnb and their hosts seem to be about as compliant as the Academy of Art.

          1. the only easy way to fix this is through fining airBNB to get their customers compliant. we will never be able to go after all the individual abusers the way airBNB could by shutting them down.

        2. Completely agree with the absurdity of ABB not being able/required to collect these fees on behalf of the hosts. As a second home owner (in Tahoe) I’ve become pretty familiar with both VRBO/Homeaway and ABB. Big difference (at least historically) was that VRBO simply connected owner with renter and allowed all the finances/documentation/deposits to flow between owner and renter. ABB created the better mousetrap/business model (for renters at least) by intermediating itself in the process and collecting all payments and fees from renters..then only remitting to the owner after the guest’s stay. So ABB not only enjoys the free float between reservation/payment date and actual visit, but they’re 100% guaranteed to take their fee before sending cash back to the owner.

          So it seems absurdly simply for SF to require ABB (under the guise of proper tax withholding?) to set aside a fixed percentage of income that ABB already collects in order to pay taxes on the services provided, much as any other business does already. Then perhaps if the property owner believes he/she is entitled to have the taxes refunded, let them come after the city rather than vice-versa.

          But alas, that would probably make too much sense in a city run quite backwards…

          1. The other commenters are being too subtle. It is widely believed that AirBnb gets away with this thanks to a few of their investors who bought the mayor and some supes.

        3. Airbnb has been collecting occupancy taxes for years now.

          Also, there’s a place on your listing where you have to put the registration ID.

  2. Beware of these numbers. More and more hosts are following what I have been doing these past 3 years: corporate rental-type hosting of more than 30 days.

    A quick personal anecdote: late last year I got a letter from County asking me to get in compliance. Since I only do 30+ days I called County and got into the following surreal conversation:

    Me – Hello, I am hosting through Airbnb but for stays that last more than 30 days. I believe I do not need to register, right?
    County – If you “Airbnb” (note the fact that Airbnb has become a verb), then you have to register and you cannot host your place more than 90 days a year.
    Me – But I do more than 30 days, this is not a short-term stay and I do not need to register, right?
    County – If stays are more than 30 days, then you do not need to register
    Me – Good, then the listing I have on Airbnb for more than 30 days doesn’t need to be registered, right?
    County – If you Airbnb, then you have to register.
    Me – {silence} Can I speak with your manager?

    County finally told me to check “I do not do host a place on Airbnb” in their online form.

    In parallel I worked with Airbnb’s host support to get them NOT to provide County with my listing details. I believe I wasn’t the only one to be confronted with the Kafkayan situation.

    1. Don’t you just say, I already pay the Residential Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Ordinance Fee?

    2. San Fronzischeme, just talk to a lawyer, if need be, and get an answer to the question of whether you need to register. A civil servant is not going to (and shouldn’t) give you legal advice. If you determine, with a lawyer or not, that you don;t need to register, then don’t register. You’re done – no need to get any confirmation from the city. Nothing Kafkaesque about it.

      If the city ever commences legal action against you, then you have a complete defense – assuming you received the proper legal advice and acted in compliance with the law. It would not give you any additional defense to say “but someone who answers phones for the city told me I don’t need to register. And I even asked to speak to a manager.”

      1. I don’t think, “My lawyer told me I don’t have to register.” is going to work any more than, “I called the City and the person who answered the phone told me that I don’t have to register.”

        1. Yes, but you might have the ability to sue your lawyer should the information be incorrect.

          The bottom line is that renting for over 30 days is not considered a short-term rental and does not fall under this ordinance. The key issue that is everyone believes Airbnb is a verb to mean “short term rentals”. When used to rent for greater than 30 days it’s no different then Craigslist, or for us older folks, the classifieds.

      2. JR “Bob” Dobbs,

        There is a confusion between 2 things:

        1 – Registering: this is required, even for me
        2 – Is my rental legal or not? I sure made certain it was. As a non-resident of my place, I have no right to rent it short-term, and if I had, it would be for a very limited time
        3 – The goal of this was to make sure County would stop considering me a scofflaw. I know I am not, but they didn’t. I figured the right process and now I am in the clear.

  3. quick back-of-the-napkin math:

    1) 9,500 listings, of which 77% non-compliant -> 7,315 non-compliant listings liable of “prosecution”
    2) 79 notices of violation -> approx 1% chance of getting caught
    3) average penalty = $9,444
    4) probability-weighted average penalty is less than $100
    Morale of the story: it pays to break the law, from a $-sense POV

    SF needs to step up prosecution and tack personnel cost on top of penalties, to make this a self-funding enterprise.

    1. Yes, those pesky housing laws which the City relaxed in order to allow Airbnb to operate. Relaxed laws which Airbnb could effectively enforce with the flip of a switch (as they’ve been required and easily do elsewhere). And instead, which the City of San Francisco now spends nearly seven figures a year in tax payer dollars to ineffectively police.

  4. No accountability/consequence = No compliance. As surprising as hearing the sun rises in east and sets in west!

  5. They’ve made it virtually impossible to comply. The staff needs to go and al those documents need to be rewritten. Unprofessional confusing tedious not to be believed what passes. I’ve spent hours trying to figure it out. JOKE. But, when I get my number and display in window as requested, a triangle and star will accompany label.

    All of this absurdity bc of 20 years of bad planning and under building.

    Also the materials are hostile and in between the lines you can see that that are forced to accommodate us — with tremendous reluctance.

    Like most, so glad we moved — this is becoming an idiotic city. The spirit is now a mirage

      1. Of course I want to pay taxes — on top of my real estate taxes and income taxes. why wouldnt I? I’m saying the process– between taxes and the short term office — is f**cked. It’s negative, opaque and bizarre. Take a look and see what you can figure out. I have sent in my 2015 taxes. Oh, the short term office wants quarterly stats too!!!! I’m waiting for staff to come banging on my front door for reporting or shekels or other.

        1. Hey invented: Your first posting above references a triangle and a star posted in the window. Your next posting references shekels. What are you saying?

  6. The reality is that you list on airbnb you are functioning as a hotel. Operating a hotel is a pain in so many ways. Hotels have a lot of regulation in order to operate. You don’t like it, then don’t operate as a hotel. Get over it.

    1. Because no one appreciates the frustrations of SF housing regulations until he gets a first-hand taste.

        1. Speaking of enforcement, I haven’t seen this mentioned on Socketsite yet:

          Next week the city will notify hosts using services like Airbnb and HomeAway/VRBO that they must submit an itemized list of all the “furniture, appliances, supplies, equipment and fixtures” used in their rentals, specifying the cost and acquisition date. After the assessor’s office calculates depreciation, this “business personal property” will be subject to a tax of slightly over 1 percent of its value.

          I’m assuming that’s also a nice business deduction for the hotelier (err, AirBnB owner), but then the City taketh some more…

  7. The program is working exactly as Airbnb intended. A perfect resounding success for the hotelization of SF.

  8. All this means is that a bigger crackdown is imminent, it was all about creating a document trail (or lack of thereof). It would be unimaginable for any non-corrupt industry anywhere to openly lobby against standard enforcement and regulations. Especially, especially in the home city of that industry.

    … But Conways gone pretty quiet, eh?

  9. The income stream for the City if scofflaws complied with AirBnB regs would be tremendous.

    It’s time to hire an Eliot Ness and staff, at least as efficient as the San Francisco Meter Maids, and start bringing in the big bucks.

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