San Francisco mayor proposes law changes that will hit Airbnb rentals

15 Apr 2015

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Just months after Airbnb’s business model was finally made legal in its home city of San Francisco, Mayor Edwin M. Lee is proposing new legislation that would bring changes to the law.

The accommodation website and other short-term rental services like it have been deeply criticised in the city because of an ongoing housing shortage, rising rents, gentrification issues, and other factors that are forcing long-term residents to leave.

Following months of dialogue with homesharers, housing associations, the private sector and city agencies, Mayor Lee wants to introduce a series of amendments to make San Francisco's current short-term rental law more enforceable.

These changes include a limit on the number of days a resident can rent out their home to 120 days. Currently, there are unlimited rentals when a host is present.

Lee would also like to see all short-term rental hosts treated equally by eliminating the current difference in the law between 'hosted' and 'un-hosted' rentals. He's also proposing the creation of the Office of Short-Term Rental Administration and Enforcement to ensure the laws are implemented.

“Many San Franciscans rent their homes on a short-term basis to earn extra income and get by in our city, but our current homesharing laws must be more clear and easier to enforce,” said Lee in a statement.

“This legislation will help keep our city more affordable for homesharers, preserve rental housing for San Franciscans, protect neighborhood character and streamline permitting and enforcement under a fair set of regulations."

Far enough?

However, for some the laws still don't go far enough. According to David Campos, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the new proposals would be too difficult to enforce.

Speaking to The San Francisco Examiner, Campos asked: "How do you enforce the law without data from Airbnb and other hosting platforms or without fining companies that list unregulated units? Are we going to hire people to sit outside every short-term rental in the city and count the number of days people are entering the units with luggage?"

Airbnb was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, who operated out of a San Francisco apartment when the only asset the company had was an air mattress. Last year, the company was valued at US$10bn when it closed a US$500m funding round.

The company now has a big presence in Dublin and, in February, announced it was expanding its Irish operation with the hiring of 200 people and the leasing of a new office space.

“Our community of hosts and guests continues to thrive and Airbnb is investing further to meet its growing needs," said head of Airbnb in Ireland Aisling Hassell upon the announcement.

"We want to ensure we can give the very best customer experience every time someone either hosts or stays with Airbnb. Our Dublin operation is a core part of the company and we are very excited to be in a position to build on our current success,” she added.

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Dean is a freelance journalist and editor covering media.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com