There’s good news for residents of San Francisco who rent spare rooms out to travellers over the internet on sites like Airbnb. On Tuesday night, the city approved the so-called “Airbnb law” to make that legal. It takes effect February 1.
It was never exactly legal to rent rooms out in San Francisco for fewer than 30 days, a time period that was more like running a hotel than subletting an apartment.
But for those who rent whole homes for fewer than 30 days via any internet site, like HomeAway or VBRO, or even Airbnb — that’s still forbidden.
The new regulation only allows people to rent homes through these sites if they are San Francisco residents living in the unit for at least nine months a year. They also have to register as hosts with the city, promising under penalty of perjury that they meet those conditions.
This new rule is great for many Airbnb hosts but a big blow to some of Airbnb’s competitors such as Austin, Texas-based HomeAway Inc., which owns the HomeAway and VBRO sites. Those two sites mostly do short-term vacation rentals of whole homes, often vacation homes.
City officials explain that they are not trying to help a local company best its competitors. They want to discourage people from buying San Francisco property to pursue lucrative short-term rentals. They want to property owners keeping homes available to permanent residents, officials told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carolyn Said.
San Francisco is in the midst of a well-documented housing shortage, thanks to the booming tech industry.
But HomeAway executives are less than than pleased.
“HomeAway supports the rights of cities and communities to craft reasonable regulations and ask our advertisers to follow local laws. However, this proposed ordinance discriminates against homeowners in favour of their tenants, giving tenants rights denied to owners,” HomeAway co-founder Carl Shepherd told us.
“We advise our owners to make their voices heard between now and February 1, in an effort to get the city government to draft a law in a way that works for all the people of San Francisco and not just the one local company for whom this ordinance was written,” Shepherd says.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on New York, where Airbnb is fighting a similar battle to come up with rules for Airbnb hosts. New York has been cracking down on hosts who rent multiple units on the site, in search of what it calls “illegal hotels.”
And, even if the city makes Airbnb legal, some home owners’ associations are banning their home owners from renting their units out over Airbnb. And some landlords have forbidden their tenants from renting out over the service, too, as terms in the lease.
As the popularity of these internet home-sharing sites rises, so do some problems. People using the service, no matter where they live, need to be aware.