With the vast majority of the San Francisco properties listed on Airbnb still not registered with the City as required by law, a new piece of legislation could require Airbnb to remove up to 75 percent of their estimated 9,500 listings in San Francisco or face penalties that could theoretically total over $5 million a day.

As drafted by Supervisor Campos and now co-sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Mar and Peskin, the proposed Short-Term Residential Rentals and Hosting Platforms ordinance amendment would require that all ‘Hosting Platforms’ (such as Airbnb, Homeaway/VRBO and FlipKey) verify that every unit offered in San Francisco has been registered with the City prior to its listing and would mandate that Platforms respond to demands from the City for information regarding the compliance of any listing within one business day.

In addition, the ordinance would extend the potential civil, administrative, and criminal penalties that exist for individuals that violate the City’s short-term rental laws to Hosting Platforms. As such, a platform could face penalties of up to $1,000 per day for every instance in which it either (1) fails to inform a host of the City’s registration law, (2) fails to collect or pay taxes on a stay, (3) allows an unregistered unit to be listed, or (4) fails to respond to the City’s demand for information to verify a units compliance with the law.

The legislation, which is working its way through the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee, would not apply to sites such as Craigslist which do not act as intermediaries. Any penalties collected would be deposited in the City’s Housing Trust Fund for use by the City’s Small Sites Program.

And if adopted, the amended law would become effective 30 days after enactment.

UPDATE (6/7): The proposed legislation was approved by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors 10-0 with Supervisor Farrell recused from the vote.

52 thoughts on “The Law That Could Ban the Vast Majority of Airbnb Listings in SF”
    1. Yeah, but targeting the platforms because they have more money seems silly. The city should be going after the people breaking the law, but it’s easier for them to push it off on the platforms.

      1. No, what is silly or at least non-functional is the current law, which SF knew was going to be ineffectual. The BOS and mayor were told as much by their own staffs and agencies when they were considering the current law.

        The platforms are making money booking illegal rentals in SF and it is trivial for them to know which are illegal and pull those listings. Really simple and routine db work.

        $1,000 per day per illegal apt seems high, but then SF is an expensive seaside town being gouged by a $20+ billion market cap unicorn.

        1. Are you familiar with a public API for the short-term rentals registered with the city or are you just assuming such a thing exists?

          1. There’s no need for a public API, unless you want to allow anyone and everyone to be able to authenticate who is legally registered or licensed to operate. Of course we have that for many other registration and license dbs the gov’t maintains. For example, you can look up a CA contractor’s license online.

            If we want to preserve the privacy of these humble SF residents who generously want to rent their couch now and again, then the few legally registered platforms, such as Air$n$, could trivially access a private and secure authentication service. Not like this is some super duper challenging problem that isn’t routinely done billions of times a day here on planet 3.

            And we would most likely want some kind of official auth service because we wouldn’t want to rely on the best efforts of the well established scofflaws at Air$n$ to assess the veracity of the thousands of spoofs of registration that they would get. SF is such a creative community, especially when it pays.

      2. No it’s not silly, what about the website Silk Road that got shut down for promoting all sorts of illegal activity?

    2. You are so right. Laws should dictate all human behavior, because gub’ment knows best. Can we create a law that legislates that that the 70’s — San Francisco’s golden era and of course my own personal golden era, being in my 20’s at the time — never ends.

      1. Most people including the SCOTUS (multiple rulings) agree that zoning laws are preferable to anarchy when it comes to land use.

      2. No way, Private Business knows best. I mean, I want Enron running my power, I want those silly meat inspectors and catalytic converters and universal healthcare nonsense all gone right away. Every problem in the USA? It’s the gub’ment’s fault. The simplest answer is always right. I saw it all on Fox and the WSJ editorial pages, so I know it’s true.

      1. VRBO and Airbnb could not be more different. VRBO charges a subscription fee up front for listing/hosting a property, historically about $1000/yr. All cash transfers/rental terms are handled directly between owner and renter. ABB intervenes and controls all aspects of the rental–setting standard contract terms, taking cash payments in advance, releasing to owner only after the rental (net of their fees of course)…so ‘registering’ properties in SF would mean nothing more than ensuring ABB sets aside the 14% in short-term rental taxes from money they already collect from the customer and disburse to the owner. So enforcing this on ABB is beyond simple and 100% auditable. Less so with VRBO where owners are on the hook to report their bookings, rates, etc and pay taxes accordingly.

        All this said, it seems VRBO is now abandoning their historic business model in order to clone ABB’s more successful model…which stinks for all property owners since VRBO is the far better alternative.

    1. I’m glad they’re cracking down on individual greed. These people are flagrantly violating HOA rules in every condo in town, ignoring the privacy and security of their neighbors. And building managements have no practical way to keep up with it except via the required tegistration which is being ignored.

      1. Perhaps we should set up an office in the City government to track things like appropriate hallway doormat or laundry room tidiness, you know, things a HOA couldn’t possibly notice on their own…

        1. Nice snark but managements cannot know if someone rented their unit for a week until the week is well underway. If you don’t live in a multi-unit building you don’t understand the difference between living surrounded by permanent neighbors and living in a transient hotel.

          1. The “crime” is renting. Until someone rents the unit, no crime has taken place, right? So management has to witness someone renting their unit for a week to complain and report them, no?

            Or are you suggesting SF try to criminalize the offer itself?

        2. The fire department does that already. Something about city ordinances requiring clear pathways for firefighter access…

  1. It will be very interesting to see which Supes support this. I would expect that this becomes a campaign issue.

  2. The same supervisors drafting this bill (Campos, Peskin) are also trying to make it legal for homeless to set up a permanent tent residence on your door step. Good luck San Francisco.

    1. Yeah, and w/o the 14% short term stay tax, 13% platform fee, and the excise taxes on tents, sleeping bags, stolen bikes & MMJ.

      Wish the City would clean my yard and haul stuff away for nothing.

      1. i think you mean “i wish the city would destroy my makeshift home and throw away my meager possessions, which does nothing to fight crippling poverty (or mental illness, or addiction) in any way whatsoever, and then afterwards i wish upper class people will laugh at me and say that I deserve it”

        1. Well, the city does spend $200M+ per year on it. That’s hardly nothing. If there are 10,000 homeless people, that’s $20,000 per person per year.

          So the city is doing something. Unfortunately, it’s doing so inefficiently and ineffectively.

          1. Check out Myth #6: “…In truth, there is no one dollar amount the city spends on a homeless person. Some who receive no services could conceivably cost nothing. The mayor’s budget office says it costs an average of $17,353 a year for each person in supportive housing and $87,480 for the sickest on the streets who need constant medical care.”

        2. … and leaving them in place somehow alleviates these problems?

          I suppose then middle class people will just say ‘less services I pay for, and a slightly cleaner environment’ if they leave.

    2. Campos only gets his panties in a bunch if the wrong people (in his opinion) are breaking the law.

  3. My question is what power the city has to enforce such a law if the affected businesses move out of town.

    1. Of course they do – it’s based on financial transactions that are happening between local residents and their guests, meaning the business is operating in SF.

  4. Good stuff – what we should have seen, but lobbyists and David Chiu made sure we got crap first go around.

  5. Time to play the “R-Bomb” on AirBnB. Better known as RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act). May not apply, but the basic premise is that those higher up in an organization should not be shielded from the illegal acts of others when they (the bosses, aka AirBnB) assisted in or ordered that certain acts be done.

    1. Gd pt. Wonder what ABnB contributes in taxes – aside from the HOT — gross receipts, etc. I suppose an HQ move would wipe those out.

  6. “With the vast majority of the San Francisco properties listed on Airbnb still not registered with the City as required by law, a new piece of legislation could require Airbnb to remove up to 75 percent of their estimated 9,500 listings in San Francisco or face penalties that could theoretically total over $5 million a day.”

    How many of those 7125 (75% of 9500) listings are only soliciting rentals for 30+ days?

    Renting a unit for 30+ days means it is NOT short-term and does not need to register or pay hotel tax.

    Does the law allow for that?

  7. We have changed our listing to a 30 day minimum, mostly due to the ease and simplicity, as well as compliance, of course. But since we’ve done that, I have discovered massive demand as people are coming to SF for internships, long term corporate stays, or moving here and need temporary housing, etc. They simply cannot afford a month long hotel stay. I don’t think we can underestimate what a significant economic impact these folks have to our mueseums, bars, restaurants, and other retailers. AirBnb is addressing a real need.

    1. Don’t people who rent for more than 30 days get tenants’ rights? Are you in compliance with the primary residence requirement? What happens to the unit outside of the legal three months that you are allowed to rent it?

      1. If you rent for more than 30 days it’s a standard rental (ie: not covered by primary residence requirement or all the other “AirBnB” rules.) Yes, the tenants have rights and are covered under rent control, but for furnished rentals the rate is typically much higher and it discourages long term residence.

        1. So if they pay for one (or more) additional months, you just have to accept it and let them stay for however long they want?

          1. Yep, you then become subject to all of the same tenants rights as a standard rental. It doesn’t make sense if it truly is a short term rental and you plan to return within some set time frame.

          2. Yes but Airbnb monthly rates are always well above market rent for unfurnished apartments.

  8. We have used AirBnb and also had long term (12 month) renters, it’s really just a combination of timing and if friends and family need a place to stay. I wouldn’t say that I have to ‘accept’ letting someone stay forever, after all, it is my home.

    1. I think the law disagrees with you. Whether or not it makes sense, or whether it’s enforced, those tenants have a legal right to stay if they want.

  9. And lets not forget, the SF Assessor wants their 1% as well:

    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.

    But I only rent out my unit/spare bedroom a couple of weeks per year. Unfortunately, “Personal property taxes are not prorated,” Chu said.

  10. I wonder how many of those listings are tenants and rent controlled apts operating against their lease, by just looking at a samlpling of listings I’d say 40-50%. These constituents of campos/Kim/Avalos can’t be too pleased to be losing their gravy train…

    1. Is that really a thing? It seems that it would be so easy for landlords to catch this by just doing a search on these sites. I really don’t see how anyone could get away with this.

  11. This is hilarious. Avalos and Campos fiddling while the housing crisis burns.

    This will do nothing to help. It’s all about looking like they’re doing something while making it worse. Gotta love progressive politics.

    Glad I moved away when I did.

  12. The city should be fined 5 million a day for allowing our streets to be open sewers filled with bums and criminals !

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