Airbnb's CEO flouted the law when he rented his couch without registering with the city

Almost a year after San Francisco’s law requiring Airbnb hosts to register with the city, even Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky has admitted he has failed to do so.

As of February 1, 2015, San Francisco law has been that any unit being rented in the city on a platform like Airbnb must be registered with the city.

That’s a big problem for the leader who has vowed to work with cities like San Francisco to crack down on illegal rentals.

According to Chesky’s own verified profile on Airbnb, the CEO has been hosting guests on his couch through August 2015, six months after the law made that illegal to do so without a registration. Another visit scheduled in September was canceled by the guest, not by Chesky himself.

“Last spring, I decided to temporarily not accept new bookings, while honouring the reservations guests had already made. I’m now completing the registration process and I’m looking forward to hosting more guests this year,” Chesky wrote in an email to remind hosts to do the same.

But here are reviews that show Chesky rented his place well after the law went into effect.

AirbnbBrian Chesky’s Airbnb profileReviews from users show visits in August and September, more than six months after the regulation went into effect.

Airbnb did not respond to request for comment on why Chesky did not register when the law took effect or why he decided to rent his unregistered unit knowing that it was violating San Francisco law to do so.

“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 honouring the reservations guests had already made,” an Airbnb spokesperson said.

“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.”

The City of San Francisco confirmed that he had not registered, and could be in violation, a spokesperson told us. Even if the bookings were made before the law took effect, the law was still being violated. “Unless they were registered with the city at the time of the rental/hosting, yes, it’s a violation,” a city spokesperson told us.

San Francisco has been begging the home-sharing platform and others like it to help enforce its short term rental regulations practically since they took effect. At one point, the first law was deemed unenforceable by a city Supervisor, and the city opened a full Office of Short Term Rentals to handle the registrations.

But according to the San Francisco Chronicle, only 879 hosts, a tiny fraction of the more than 6,000, have registered with the city as of January 11.

While the city is asking home-sharing sites like Airbnb to deactivate unregistered listings, Airbnb is taking the approach of reminding its hosts to register. In Chesky’s email to hosts, he promised Airbnb would make it easier for its users to become compliant. A second letter to the city from its policy manager Patrick Hannahan said Airbnb would start monthly sending emails and letters to hosts’ homes, urging them to register.

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