RentalsTechnology

Airbnb enforcement streamlined through new SF city office

Officials want all Airbnb hosts to be legally registered before welcoming guests

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Americans have a love/hate relationship with Airbnb. How it impacts your travel or everyday life often indicates where you fall on the spectrum.

The company’s massive growth and the encompassing industry spurring from it lends to the argument that Airbnb is indeed here to stay — but laws may get just a little stricter.

The home base for Airbnb, San Francisco, is at the center of the debate. Local government officials are hoping to ease concerns and get all Airbnb hosts out of illegal waters with a new six-person, all-in-one Office of Short Term Rental Administration and Enforcement.

The office will help to regulate and legalize hosts and enforce against hosts who have turned a unit into a full-time hotel. Violation letters will be sent to 15 Airbnb hosts who run 73 residential spaces as hotels without shelling out the money for hotel tax.

To put it into perspective, there are currently 5,000 or more Airbnb listings in San Francisco, but just about 700 of the hosts have been registered legally. Because Airbnb refuses to turn over data to the city, regulators have to wait until neighbors complain about the foot traffic or noise of travelers in nearby Airbnbs before enforcing any laws.

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The intention of the office is to streamline the process for hosts to obtain a business license, a requirement before they are able to register. Hosts are required to pay a $50 fee every two years as well.

The office cannot rally Airbnb hosts violating the law, but officials leading the charge are hoping that outreach will lead to fewer people breaking the law.

Although Airbnbs were deemed legal in San Francisco in February, a key component of that law was that hosts would have to register with the city. The home-sharing company and city officials have been butting heads for months, as some leaders are looking for even stricter guidelines, additional taxes to be paid and a cap on the amount of days a property is listed for rent.

A huge argument against the proliferation of Airbnb is its impact on the local housing market and the amount of available inventory. On June 8, the company fought back against officials by releasing a report citing data that the company has had very little to no impact on the housing market’s inventory pool.

The report, called “The Airbnb Community in San Francisco” and written by Abby Lackner, Anita Roth and Christopher Nulty, cited that in order for a rental unit to have an impact on a region, the host would have to rent it out for more than 211 days a year on a short-term basis.

It cited that only 0.09 percent of all housing units in the city are rented out to that extent. Only 1.14 percent of vacant units are rented for more than 211 days.

The end of disputes doesn’t seem to be looming on the horizon, as the Board of Supervisors is meeting July 14 to go over two competing legislative measures to tighten up laws. Both measures would enforce hosts to register as such, but one measure is stricter than the other.

Email Kimberly Manning.


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