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SF to Vacation Rental Companies: "Help Us Catch Violators"

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This has been a heck of a week for vacation rental news. Here's the latest on the topic that has largely divided SF: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that city officials are pleading with hosting platform companies like Airbnb, VRBO, FlipKey, and even Craigslist to help them find people who are breaking the vacation rental laws enacted just a year ago. There's little word from the platforms or hosts, but if the published numbers are any indicator, we think we may have just heard a big shrug of indifference.

You may remember the law that went into effect on February 1, 2015. It requires: 1) vacation rental hosts to register with the city, 2) hosts to be full-time residents, and 3) that whole-house rentals be limited to just 90 days per year. According to the Chronicle, only 875 hosts out of an estimated 6,000 in the city have completed registration. The report says 1,300 owners have applied for the permit, 170 were rejected, and there are 251 pending applications. In other words, most hosts haven't registered.

That brings us to the city's request. According to the Chronicle, the city's Office of Short-Term Rentals is asking the companies to require hosts to have proper registration, help the department root out scofflaws, and delete listings the city identifies as illegal. What would make the hosting platforms heed SF's appeals? According to city officials, the answer is good, old-fashioned threats—i.e., the Board of Supervisors could always impose stricter requirements and penalties. Supervisor Scott Wiener, who plans to hold a Monday hearing on the subject, told the Chronicle: "We need to show the public that we can enforce these rules. If we show that we are punishing the people who commit egregious, abusive violations, then public confidence will go up. There has to be enough enforcement so that people believe there's a risk of being caught and (facing) a significant penalty."

This isn't the only vacation rental blip on the radar. This week, we carried news of Jennifer Solomon, a woman who turned her three-unit property on Nob Hill into a full time, short-term rental building. After running afoul of the law (the Chronicle says she doesn't live in SF) and neighbors, she is taking her case to the city to try and legally turn the building into a hotel. Many (on both sides of the issue) are watching with interest.

· City implores Airbnb, other firms, to deactivate illegal listings [SFGate]
· Airbnb Wire [Curbed SF]
· Nob Hill Rental Building Aims to Become a Mini-Hotel [Curbed SF]

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