Just last month, People magazine saluted 34-year-old Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky for continuing to generously rent out a couch in his apartment despite having $3 billion to his name. "I still live in the original Airbnb and I still Airbnb it so you can book it," he told the publication. "It's available throughout the year, you can book the couch for just like $50."
It actually used to be $40, for the record, and now Business Insider discovers that Chesky has been living outside the regulatory laws he's fought vigorously against.
Yep, Airbnb's CEO hasn't bothered to register his own Airbnb with San Francisco, as mandated by Short-Term Residential Rental laws that went into effect last February. Despite the failure of Prop F, which would have added further restrictions to those laws, there are several hoops to jump through for registration. Chesky seems to have avoided them entirely.
"Last spring, I decided to temporarily not accept new bookings, while honoring the reservations guests had already made," Chesky wrote in an email to Airbnb hosts. I’m now completing the registration process and I’m looking forward to hosting more guests this year," he continued, implying that other hosts should do the same. Yet according to the publicly available info on Chesky's Airbnb profile, he hosted guests through August 2015 — six months later and still without registration.
The City of San Francisco confirmed that Chesky had, still, not registered his couch, and a spokesperson put it simply: "Unless they were registered with the city at the time of the rental/hosting, yes, it’s a violation," they said.
In a statement, an Airbnb spokesperson wrote that, "Over the years, Brian has opened his shared space listing — it’s just a couch in the living room — to people from all over the world. Last spring, he decided to temporarily not accept new bookings, while honoring the reservations guests had already made... Some of the reservations had been planned for months in advance and he wanted to be a good host and not cancel on guests who were eager to share his space. He is now completing the registration process and looks forward to hosting more guests this year."
As of December, the head of the newly opened Office of Short-Term Rentals at City Hall says he's issued $400,000 in penalties for violators. It's possible that Chesky's $50-a-night generosity might end up costing him. Yes, it's just a goddamn couch and not the target of said crackdown, which were primarily people renting units they did not reside in. But at the least, it sets a fairly poor example. It's also very much in keeping with Airbnb public relations — this is, after all, the company that scrupulously avoided hotel back taxes and then, after it paid up (at least in part) mocked the library and other city agencies in a passive-aggressive ad campaign — encouraging them to stay open later with the money from said taxes — before the last election on Prop F.
Update:An Airbnb spokesperson has contacted SFist to say that Chesky "has now completed the registration process." Welcome to registered Airbnbing, Brian.
Related: Just How Many Apartments In SF Are Being Used As Full-Time Airbnb Rentals?