Former Russian Hill resident and current Chronicle article subject Chris Butler claims his landlord gave him the boot after nearly ten years in his apartment, in order to rent out two units on AirBnB.
Butler was evicted under
the Ellis Act an Owner-Move In eviction which allows landlords to remove tenants in order to take the unit off the rental market to allow a family member to move in. In Butler's case, however, two of the units in his four-unit building popped up on AirBnB, renting for $125 and $145 per night.
While Butler's attorney claims AirBnB is displacing long-term tenants by making it too easy for landlords to go into the short-term rental business, an attorney for the landlords claims everything was done by the book and that Butler was evicted by the book, in order to allow a family member to move in. (Devil's advocate here: it seems like it wouldn't be hard to have a family member "move in" by simply furnishing the unit as an AirBnB-ready rental.)
The otherwise well-regarded AirBnB, meanwhile claiming that this sort of eviction is rare and distanced themselves from any illegal activity, pointing to a UC Berkeley study they commissioned that found a majority of AirBnB hosts only occasionally rent out their own homes and most do it to make ends meet with the rent or mortgage.
City Hall has been trying to figure out how to regulate AirBnB and similar services ever since the local hotel industry caught wind that small-time hosts were dodging hotel taxes a couple years back, but nothing has come to fruition yet. In the meantime, tenant-rights groups and progressive anti-eviction types have been getting more and more vocal about what they see as a threat to even more of San Francisco's dwindling housing stock.
The Bay Guardian, which has been side-eyeing the "Sharing Economy" since 2012, found that 1,100 rent-controlled San Francisco apartments were listed on AirBnB — most of them probably in violation of zoning laws or, at the very least, the host's lease.
In the meantime, Mayor Lee, who the Guardian gleefully points out shares a funding source with AirBnB in Ron Conway, has been silent on the issue. Butler's old landlords, on the other hand, have offered their former tenant his old apartment back, claiming they're only renting it out on AirBnB until he decides if he'd like to move back to Russian Hill. Butler, for his part, says he's turning it down so he doesn't have to deal with the "constant flow of strangers" in his building.
Update: A previous version of this article claimed Butler was evicted under the Ellis Act. Owner-Move In and Ellis Act evictions are actually two separate items. The former allows an owner to evict one tenant for a family member. The latter requires an entire building to be removed from the rental market.