San Francisco Airbnb listings illegal-compressed Photo: Open Grid Scheduler/Flickr

Another blow has been levelled against “vacation” share economy giant Airbnb. On April 7th, the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office from the City and County of San Francisco released a report detailing how 76 percent of the city’s Airbnb listings are actually illegal. The policy report reached this conclusion because many hosts who create listings for their homes do not register their short-term rental space.

New laws addressing the regulation of short-term rentals went into effect as of February 2015. All hosts are now required to register with the City and meet certain requirements concerning liability insurance and maintaining a business registration certificate. Hosts also need to report how many nights their units were rented out each quarter to the City’s Office of Short-Term Rentals (OSTR).

According to last week’s report, 57.4 percent of the 7,029 total listings on Airbnb were for entire homes, which are subject to a rental cap of 90 nights per year. It continues, “since February 2015, an estimated 285, or 26.1 percent of unhosted entire home listings, appear to have been rented for more than 90 nights, in violation of the 90-night cap.”

Additionally, the city has not been actively searching for cases to crack down on. Over 90 percent of the 322 enforcement cases were initiated because of neighbor complaints or referrals from other City departments.

Essentially, the majority of the hosts in the city are still operating illegally, and city officials are taking notice. The first year was focused on gathering data, but now OSTR can analyze webscrapes in order to identify residents in violation. For those relying on the extra income from renting out a room, register those units quick.

Are you a host and unsure if you’re complying with OSTR’s regulations? Here’s a breakdown of the bases you need covered:

  • Obtain a business registration certificate from the Treasurer & Tax Collector prior to registering with the City
  • Register with the city
  • Be a permanent resident of the unit being rented
  • Post a City-issued short-term rental registration number on any hosting platform where the unit is being offered
  • Maintain $500,000 or more in liability insurance for the unit
  • Provide a quarterly report to OSTR on the number of nights the unit is rented

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