Legislation would crack down on short-term corporate apartment rentals

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerSan Francisco is working to prevent corporations from signing long-term leases only to turn around and rent them back to out-of-town employees when needed.

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerSan Francisco is working to prevent corporations from signing long-term leases only to turn around and rent them back to out-of-town employees when needed.

In a city with skyrocketing rents, rent-control laws, and strong tenant advocacy, it was just a matter of time before corporate “hotelization” became a target of the Board of Supervisors.

The City may be on the verge of cracking-down on illegal short-term corporate apartment rentals. Board president David Chiu has introduced legislation to set up a clear enforcement procedure to prevent corporations from skirting existing law by signing long-term apartment leases only to rent the units out to visiting employees for just a few days or weeks.

Meanwhile, Chiu is still trying to devise a regulatory umbrella for online services like Airbnb, which allow tenants to rent out their entire apartment for days and weeks.

A 1981 law prohibits occupancy for less than 30 days in apartment buildings with four or more units. Such short-term stays fills The City’s precious housing stock with out-of-towners that could otherwise be used by long-term tenants. The practice also can frustrate tenants and raise safety concerns with strangers coming and going like they would at a hotel.

Chiu’s legislation was approved Monday by the Land Use and Economic Development Committee of the Board of Supervisors. The full board will vote Oct. 16 on the bill. It establishes a complaint and hearing process, requires record-keeping to prove compliance and empowers nonprofits to assist tenants in taking civil action.

Spike Kahn, the owner of 12 units, complained that Airbnb was “taking most of the housing stock,” contributing to lack of housing and increasing rents. She said that the proposal doesn’t go far enough and suggested fee and fines to support The City’s own proactive enforcement.

“The City has become only for the wealthy and those who cram themselves the Tenderloin with four or five people in a room,” Kahn said.

The unregulated Airbnb business model is not only posing challenges for San Francisco, where it is based, but other locations including New York City, which is grappling with issues including taxation.

As Supervisor Eric Mar noted that Airbnb’s businesses “will probably go through the roof” with next weekend’s Fleet Week, America’s Cup and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass events, Chiu said he has been working on coming up with a proposal and to expect something in the coming months.

Chiu said he is working on a process neighbors could use to complain of visitors’ behavior, to ensure that such services don’t displace long-term tenants and determine how such visits should be taxed.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsBoard of SupervisorsEric MarGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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