A week after a judge's ruling suggested that Airbnb's lawsuit against SF was doomed, and just days after the company announced that they might follow San Francisco's rules after all, things have gotten even tougher for short-term rental companies, as currently unregistered hosts in SF will likely now face an annual 60-day cap on rentals.
Airbnb's relationship with San Francisco has been fraught for years, with SF's Budget Analyst saying that 1900 or more residences in the city were being kept off the rental market by scofflaw short-term hosts, of which there are thousands across San Francisco.
SF's Board of Supervisors agreed on stricter regulations and a required registration policy for Airbnb and other short-term rental hosts in 2014, but most hosts were slow to comply — and Airbnb was admittedly uninterested in helping SF force hosts into line. So in June of this year, the Supes unanimously agreed to pass legislation fining short-term rental companies $1000 per day per law-breaking host.
Airbnb responded to this threat to their bottom line with a lawsuit, one that on November 8 was dealt a blow by a federal judge who didn't agree to an Airbnb-requested injunction against the law's enforcement. Monday, the company announced that they are now interested in taking steps to help San Francisco identify unregistered hosts, and reminded us that they've already worked to block users from listing multiple SF residences (also verboten under the 2014 law).
But despite these conciliatory gestures, SF's Supes moved forward on a vote Tuesday to make life even more difficult for unregistered hosts. While the 1700 or so currently registered in San Francisco will continue to operate as they always have, all non-compliant hosts and/or those who are just now getting on the short-term rental bus will face a new, strict cap on rentals: 60 days a year, max.
While already-registered hosts can rent a portion of their place for as many days as they'd like (as long as they remain present) and for a full 90 days when not present, all newly registering hosts will only be allowed 60 days of guests per year under the new legislation, which the Ex says got yes votes from Board President London Breed (who proposed the law), Aaron Peskin, John Avalos, Jane Kim, Eric Mar and David Campos.
Supes Katy Tang and Malia Cohen voted in opposition, Scott Wiener and Norman Yee were absent, and Mark Farrell recused himself, "since he has business interests related to short-term rentals."
For their part, Airbnb is bummed. In a statement, they say "We are disappointed on behalf of the thousands of middle class San Franciscans who would be harmed by this arbitrary proposal that does nothing to fix the broken registration system. We remain ready and willing to work with all parties to build a simple registration system that protects housing and enables residents to share their homes without endless red tape."
The Ex reports, however, that the registration system might be less "broken" than Airbnb claims. Speaking before the Supes earlier this month, "Kevin Guy, head of The City’s Short-Term Rental Office, told members of the board that the registration process has improved and takes three to four weeks and also that he was...planning to create an online registration process."
Peskin has also questioned Airbnb's objections, saying that “Airbnb could have blocked those bad players now for years. They have not exactly been the most upstanding corporate citizen.”
The board will vote on the legislation for a second time on November 29. To avoid a possible mayoral veto, eight Supes would have to vote in support — which isn't to say that Lee would definitely veto it, just that he's suggested in the past that he's not totally down with tougher rules for the short-term industry.