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City Says 76 Percent of Airbnb Listings Are Illegal

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Almost no one has bothered to register their short-term rental

The San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report Thursday night showing that the overwhelming majority of Airbnb hosts in the city have not bothered to register their short-term rental, and a significant minority of them are ignoring the city’s prohibition on renting out entire homes for months on end.

The numbers come a little over a year since laws went into effect that were supposed to give the city the power to lean on hosts not to let out-of-towners monopolize scarce housing stock.

The analyst's office says that the total of listings in the city jumped 54 percent between December 2014 and March of this year, coming to 9,448 citywide. The number of hosts increased from 4,815 to 7,046, showing a 46 percent spike. More than a tenth of all listings are in the Mission, with the next most popular neighborhoods being the Haight, the Castro, Russian Hill, and SoMa.

The problem, of course, is that if there are 7,046 people letting out on Airbnb in the city right now, the city’s Office of Short-Term Rentals should have about 7,046 registrations. Instead, they have 1,647.

For anyone who's not great at doing math in their head, that’s a lot less. It means that 76 percent of hosts have either been putting off registration for a really, really long time, or they just don’t care.

Also on the books since 2015 is a rule stating that if your listing remains unhosted (i.e., you‘re not living there yourself), you cannot rent it out for more than 90 days a year. More than 57 percent of San Francisco listings are unhosted, and around 26.1 percent of those appear to be flouting the cap.

Meanwhile, the Office of Short Term Rentals pursued a scant 322 cases in 2015.

The city says it has a hard time cracking down on outlaw rentals because it has a hard time finding them in the first place. (Case in point, look how long this study took.)

Airbnb would have an easier time finding cheats themselves, and indeed, they’ve promised to start booting violators from the site. But they also complain that they don’t yet have mechanisms in place for tracking individual hosts.

When asked for comment, Airbnb spokesperson Nick Papas told Curbed that the average host lets out his or her home only 48 days a year. And those flouting registration? "The process remains a challenge," says Papas. "San Francisco is asking hosts to apply for multiple permits, fill out dozens of pages of paperwork, and tell the city how many spoons they have in their home."

The registration process outlined by the report doesn’t mention spoons, but hosts do need proof of residency, a business registration, insurance liability up to a half million dollars, and a report card showing no outstanding code violations on the unit.