San Francisco

Airbnb Cracks Down on San Francisco Hosts Who Violate City's Laws on Short-Term Rentals

Officials plan to investigate people who list multiple homes on Airbnb, as well as purge its listings of hosts who have turned private homes into illegal hotels.

Airbnb launched a crackdown Saturday on some Airbnb hosts who violate San Francisco's laws on short-term rentals, the online vacation-rental service says.

The popular site is pledging to investigate people who list multiple San Francisco homes on Airbnb, as well as purge its listings of hosts who have turned private homes into illegal hotels, the San Francisco Chronicle reports .

The move follows a similar self-policing effort by the 8-year-old vacation-rental giant in New York City to remove "unwelcome listings."

Chris Lehane, Airbnb's global director of public policy, said Airbnb is seeking to adapt its policies "so it serves the best interest of each city we're in.''

"This is a step in that direction, to make sure that each host has only one listing in San Francisco,'' Lehane said.

Tech booms in nearby Silicon Valley have helped create one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation in San Francisco. Housing advocacy groups say the city's shortage of affordable homes for residents is in the thousands.

Critics accuse Airbnb and other short-term rental sites of worsening the housing shortage, by giving property owners a financial motive to convert homes into lodging for out-of-town visitors rather than residents. San Francisco toughened laws on short-term rentals last year, but city officials have pleaded with the vacation-rental sites for more information to help the city catch violators.

Airbnb has cited privacy concerns, but increasingly is indicating it will do more to police its own listings in some cities.

Airbnb told the Chronicle that 1,149 — or one-fifth — of its house listings in San Francisco are controlled by hosts who list more than one home for rental on the site. Local law says homeowners are allowed to list only their primary residence for short-term rentals.

The company removed almost 100 questionable San Francisco listings in January, and another 118 in 2015, officials said.

San Francisco's Office of Short-Term Rentals, meanwhile, served 59 notices between November and February to property owners it suspected of operating illegally.

The company spent $8 million in 2015 to defeat a ballot measure that sought to further crack down on use of the city's housing stock for vacation rentals.

"This will be a learning experience," Airbnb said in a news release. "We aren’t perfect, but we are committed to learning and being a good partner with cities around the world to ensure short-term rentals do not impact the cost and availability of long-term housing."

NBC Bay Area's Rhea Mahbubani contributed to this report. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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