The San Francisco Board of Supervisors says it’s just trying to get people to obey the law in the short-term rental business. People who rent their homes, or rooms in their homes, are supposed to register with the city. Short-term rentals used to be illegal, but 18 months ago a law was passed allowing them, as long as the hosts registered their property. Since then only 1,324 Airbnb hosts have registered with the city, which city officials say is far fewer than the number of hosts actively engaged in the short-term business.
That’s why, by a vote of 10-0 with 1 recusal because of a business conflict, the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation providing that Airbnb and other short-term rental associates would be fined up to $1,000 a day for advertising unregistered properties, according to the San Francisco Examiner. The vote margin is such that Mayor Lee cannot veto it. Therefore, the new law goes into effect in approximately 30 days.
Proponents of the legislature say it is necessary, not just because it enforces the law, but also because short-term rentals keep properties off the market that could otherwise help what has become one of the tightest, most expensive real estate markets in the world.
Airbnb points to the financial help its service gives to people who could otherwise lose their homes because of the cost of living in the area. People living in the San Francisco area who do not work in the tech industry often have a hard time paying their bills.
“An estimated 1,200 San Franciscans avoided foreclosure or eviction by hosting on Airbnb,” reads a statement issued by Airbnb after the vote, “and this legally questionable proposal puts their housing at risk without offering any real solutions to fix the complex process. The board acknowledged that the registration system is broken and, in order to help people to be able to stay in their homes, the city needs to fix it. We hope the board will act to fix this broken registration system, and we are considering all options to stand up for our community and keep fighting for real reform.”
San Francisco has an Office of Short-Term Rentals. The new law calls for that office to submit quarterly compliance reports and for short-term rental websites to either put host registration numbers on listings or email the host name and registration number to the city.