San Francisco Creates New Office To Regulate Airbnb, Other Short-Term Rentals

The city of San Francisco and Airbnb have a somewhat contentious relationship, most recently involving tens of millions of dollars in back-taxes the short-term rental company agreed to pay the city earlier this year. Now, to ensure things continue to go smoothly for renters and rentees of services like Airbnb, the city has created a new office for the sole purpose of enforcing rules regarding vacation and short-term rentals.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city created the Office of Short Term Rental Administration and Enforcement to streamline host registrations and investigate violators of city rental laws.

An advisor to Mayor Ed Lee says that the new office is the first of its kind for cities in the U.S.

Under San Francisco law, those who list their homes as short-term rentals must be a permanent resident and register their intent with the city. Unit rentals are then limited to 90 days per year.

Only about 700 hosts have registered with the city so far, representing just a small segment of the more than 5,000 San Francisco listings on Airbnb, the Chronicle reports.

An official with the city’s zoning commission says enforcement can be difficult at times.

“All code requirements impose certain challenges,” Scott Sanchez, a zoning administrator, said. “We’re focusing on complaints about the bad actors who are clearly in violation of the code, taking multiple units out of the city’s housing stock.”

And that’s where the new office comes into play. The six-person department will first focus on outreach to encourage compliance among rental owners.

“The more we outreach, hopefully we will have less violators,” city administrator Naomi Kelly tells the Chronicle. “This will allow (the city) to be laser-focused on going after enforcement and bad actors.”

In another attempt to encourage compliance, the city plans to make required business licenses available online. The office will also start allowing hosts to complete their in-person interview portion of the process as a walk-in instead of scheduling the appointment in advance.

Airbnb applauded the city’s new approach to enforcement of short-term regulations, saying the city is finally “making the short-term rental permit process simple and frictionless for our many middle-class hosts.”

While the new office aims to provide the city with better oversight of the growing vacation and short-term rental industry, some groups continue to push for tighter regulations to curb the services.

S.F. to create city office to enforce Airbnb law [San Francisco Chronicle]