An upcoming change in San Francisco law, which threatened to lodge serious fines against home-sharing websites like Airbnb and Craigslist, is now officially on hold pending the results of a lawsuit Airbnb recently filed against the city.
The new ordinance would have forced home-sharing websites to remove illegal short-term rental listings, which are not registered with the San Francisco Office of Short-Term Rentals. Otherwise, those companies could face fines of up to $1,000 per day.
However, on Tuesday afternoon, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos introduced a proposal to amend the law in hopes of addressing the legal criticisms outlined in Airbnb’s lawsuit.
Those tweaks also aim to strengthen enforcement by giving the city’s Office of Short-Term Rentals subpoena power to compel companies to hand over information about illegal listings. The full board is expected to vote on that issue by September.
The Investigative Unit recently found that thousands of short-term rentals across San Francisco are unregistered and, therefore, illegal. In May, NBC Bay area discovered that only 1,281 short-term rental hosts registered their homes with the city’s Office of Short-Term Rentals. At the same time, however, Airbnb boasted 7,046 hosts in San Francisco with 9,448 listings. In its 18-page lawsuit, Airbnb argued the city’s in-person registration process is too burdensome on hosts and said the new law would infringe on the company’s first amendment rights of commercial speech.
A federal judge will hear arguments from both sides on September 7. Meanwhile, another popular website, HomeAway, has filed court documents indicating that it, too, would like to join the lawsuit in hopes of blocking San Francisco’s new law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 24th. A spokesperson for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office told the Investigative Unit that the city has agreed to hold off on fining companies until the lawsuit is settled.