Having peaked in the second quarter of 2016, the quarter in which San Francisco drafted a new short term rental law which was finally implemented last year, the number of formal complaints related to illegal short-term rental activity in San Francisco totaled around 80 in the second quarter of 2018 versus 164 in the second quarter of 2017 and down from around 100 in the first quarter of this year.

At the same time, attempts to circumvent the short-term listing law, by spoofing valid registration numbers or playing cat and mouse games with listings, continue to tick up. We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Pioneer

    My neighbors who are still renting out a full separate unit short term when it should only be renting it for 30 days or longer. They do not have a valid registration number but put “pending” in that required field.

    I have checked with OSTR and there is no pending application. The “cat and mouse game” is officially called “toggling” where they toggle the minimum stay from 30 days to something less than 30 days, long enough for their calendar to fill up, and then toggle it back to 30 days. These neighbors refuse to be regulated and there is nothing I can do. Frankly, I’m afraid of them and their guests. Clearly some shady activities going on over there…nasty business.

    I hope the new progressive board caps all STRs at 90 days per year.

    • Posted by DP

      File a complaint?

    • Posted by Trey

      You can file a complaint. And should. As an Airbnb host (hosted room, not entire place) I hate the cheaters who refuse to abide by the quite sensible rules.

      Going to a 90 day cap for all str (including hosted) would be an undue burden on the middle class families (home owners and tenants who are trying to stay in this expensive city.

      Making the rules onerous solves nothing and hurts residents.

      • Posted by Pioneer

        I have filed complaints–multiple complaints. One of my complaints is still “open” and OSTR keeps delaying action on it. because of supervisor’s office intervention on behalf of the scofflaws.

        • Posted by primeminister

          Which supervisor? Name and shame.

          • Posted by Pioneer

            Sheehy. He was already shamed out of office by the largest margin of any sitting supervisor in history.

      • Posted by Futurist

        Single family homes and residential neighborhoods were never meant to be hotel districts.

    • Posted by Sigh

      Why cap all STR’s at 90? Only if its not your primary residence cap it

    • Posted by 4th Generation SF

      Let me ask you this: so you’re FINE with illegal border jumpers & “No ICE” right? But gee, omg, your neighbors can’t rent out their own place to people. Got it.

  2. Posted by Lawful Host

    We Airbnb our place, meet all required eligibility criteria, and have filed all necessary paperwork and permit applications in a timely manner. Still, the OSTR refuses to issue us a permit. This is becoming very common across the City as the OSTR clearly has a political agenda above and beyond enforcing the law as written.

    We, along with countless other lawful hosts, have been forced to hire expensive attorneys to pursue action against the OSTR. The OSTR is not enforcing the laws as written and upheld by voters in Prop F. I expect we will see this come to light in the media shortly as Airbnb is very angry with the OSTR right now and aware of the issues. We, along with other hosts, are now facing severe financial burdens due to OSTR.

    Hopefully this will be resolved soon as we can no longer afford this expensive city (we bought our place in the recession) without the supplemental income and have kids in school here.

    • Posted by Pioneer

      You are not a”lawful host” if you are short-term renting without a permit. I heard the OSTR is going beyond their scope in looking at the number of existing permits on a block before issuing new ones. I don’t think Prop F had anything to say about regulating density of short term permits. This is indeed an undue burden and way beyond their scope.

    • Posted by 4th Generation SF

      IMHO, you need to take your case against OSTR, and the City of SF all the way to SCOTUS. All the way. Overturn this law.

  3. Posted by UnlivableCity

    Pioneer is correct – the system is being gamed by toggling and as always Airbnb is aiding and abetting illegal hosting. Occupancy is also a serious problem where “hosts” are trying to up their revenue by overcrowding already illegal units. There are also intermediaries renting for over 30 days but circulating people through the unit, in particular foreign workers who are desperate for a bed. The short term rental office needs to be more aggressive going after illegal hosts especially ones who still have multiple units across the city and long records of complaints.

  4. Posted by Lawful Host

    We are indeed “lawfui hosts”. We applied for the permit last summer well in advance of offering any short term stays and were told by both Airbnb and the OSTR to put “city registration pending” in the field where the permit number is supposed to go, and that renting while the permit was in process was permitted. It took OSTR over 10 months to process the permit which resulted in a denial. I’m sorry but I didn’t sell my company to Facebook for hundreds of millions of dollars so I don’t have 10 months to sit around watching bills pile up.

    I have not heard about OSTR looking at density of existing permits. That is also out of scope of the law. I heard a rumor that Airbnb’s lawyers are evaluating actions against OSTR and the City given their hosts are all being unduly held up and coming to them up in arms. I think a class action against the City by hosts is a distinct possibility as well. Many lawyers would love to lead that effort.

    Either way we can expect to see a renewed battle over short term rentals after it was supposed to be settled. Not a surprise given the City agencies treat property owners as either something to disdain or prey upon depending on their mood that day.

    • Posted by stevenj

      How can you be “legal” if you are operating without a permit?

      • Posted by Ivoryhouse

        The OSTR go slow is preventing permits being issued. The OSTR states you can legally host while an application is outstanding.

    • Posted by Pioneer

      If your permit application was denied, how can you be a legal host? Seems to me you are in denial.

    • Posted by Neighborhood Activist

      Gee, maybe you should rent your place to a long-term tenant. Steady income AND a contribution to improving the city’s housing crisis, all in one move!

      • Posted by 4th Generation SF

        That’s none of your business what a property owner wants to do with their property.

        • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

          A property owner’s rights to use their property depend upon zoning. If it weren’t, the owner of the property right next to where you live right now, “4th Generation SF “, could start up an abattoir, and say “None of your business what I do with my property!”

          Starting up an illegal hotel in a residential zone is just as illegal.

    • Posted by Harvey

      Lawful Host – just scam the system like everyone else! the city does not have the resources to check up on you!

  5. Posted by UnlivableCity

    I love Airbnb and am a power user over many years. However it has devestate many neighborhoods (the French quarter in New Orleans for instance and in very special areas like our little neighborhoods of SF, restrictions and consequences should be much more robust.

    • Posted by 4th Generation SF

      So owners of their own places that YOU ADMIT to using being a “power user” can short term rent to you. But no one in SF can do it. Right. Got it.

  6. Posted by JWS

    I love AirBNB in principle, and think people should absolutely be allowed to AirBNB a spare bedroom in a house they occupy, or AirBNB their entire unit that they live in while they go out of town. But I support strict and robust protections to keep housing stock that would otherwise be rented to tenants off the platform. At this point in time we simply do not have the housing to spare to commit too much of it to guests who want to come see our city.

    • Posted by 4th Generation SF

      But it’s totally fine for YOU to use AirBnB because you’re “careful”. Got it. Owners should not do it. Right.

  7. Posted by highflyer

    Property owners rent to AirBNB guests because full time Millennial tenants are a pain in the ass: Numerous roommates within one apartment, service dogs (which is BS), a sense of entitlement that goes way beyond the city’s rental ordinances and they are at home all day because most don’t have real jobs. Why would any landlord want a long term tenant?

    • Posted by 4th Generation SF

      Fine for you, not fine for the people you rent from. Got it. As long as YOUR happy, all that matters.

    • Posted by Harvey

      plus – you can’t stop them from smoking, which is a tenant “right”!

  8. Posted by 4th Generation SF

    Let me get this straight. Going across the USA border illegally is totally fine even though there are federal laws against this.

    Someone trying to make some $ on their OWN place by putting it on AirBnB is doing things “illegally”? And they should be fined? But hey, fine to cross borders, get on our welfare system – all FINE to the progs in SF.

    Got it.

    • Posted by Happy tree

      Why do you bring everything back to the US border? It’s the second thread I read and the second time you draw this comparison.

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