What San Francisco's New Airbnb Law Means for Travelers

Courtesy of AirBnB
By M. Elizabeth Sheldon Posted October 15, 2014

After years of operating in a legal limbo in San Francisco, Airbnb was finally legitimized by their hometown last week when the city’s board of supervisors passed the so-called “Airbnb law.” The ruling, which goes into effect on February 1st, was good news for Airbnb, which is currently embroiled in similar legal debates in New York and other cities across the country. But what does it mean for travelers planning to snag a sweet pad on their next stop in San Francisco? Below are some major points of the new law to keep in mind.

-It is now legal for permanent San Francisco residents to rent rooms in their home or apartment for short term stays of 30 days or less. This was technically verboten before, though the law was rarely enforced.

-Hosts must log their properties with a new city registry. This should weed out many of the hosts who were renting without the permission of their co-op boards or landlords, as it will now be public knowledge that they're working with Airbnb.

-Airbnb listings are subject to San Francisco’s 14% rental tax, which will likely mean higher rents for some listings. Airbnb’s payment system will collect the tax and transfer it to the city. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this move is expected to generate $11 million dollars for the city in the next year.

-Rentals of an entire house or apartment are capped at 90 days per year. This was a key point of contention, because those opposed to Airbnb worry that the service reduces the amount of available dwellings in San Francisco’s already ridiculously strapped housing market.

-Hosts must have liability insurance of at least $500,000. Airbnb currently offers some damage protection for hosts, but until now did not require any additonal rental or homeowner's insurance.

-Only permanent residents are allowed to rent out their properties. In other words, it’s illegal for San Francisco residents to take out leases and then fill the properties with a constant turnover of Airbnb guests, which has become a recurring problem. This is a particularly interesting note considering recent controversy about Airbnb hosts renting out properties without the owner’s knowledge.

Airbnb offers detailed information about local legal requirements for all of the cities they operate in—even if you're not a host, it's worth taking a look before you book. 

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