Despite the rhetoric coming out from moderates in City Hall or from Airbnb itself, illegal short-term rentals are still a problem for San Francisco residents and enforcement is lackluster.

After Mayor Lee vetoed legislation improvements that passed the Board of Supervisors 7-3, it is clear to us at the Tenants Union that rectifying the problem of abuse is going to be a slow process if we rely on City Hall to fix it. Therefore, we offer five steps for citizens to take matters into their own hands. Together we can make illegal hotels unprofitable so hosts choose a permanent tenant over a tourist.

First though, don’t jump to conclusions. Some hosts are legally registered with the city and allowed to rent out ONE property that they live in themselves. With in-law units, the host must actually live in the in-law and not upstairs. You can check for legitimate registration on the Property Information Map. Look for a STR registration permit on the “Planning App” tab.

If a unit is properly registered but is a party pad nightmare for you, you should contact the platform’s complaint department or the owner themselves if you can. Airbnb’s complaint line is: https://www.airbnb.com/neighbors. We have tried to file complaints in the past and found it a futile, exasperating experience, but maybe it has changed. Good luck!

Also forward these complaints to the Office of Short Term Rentals and us for good measure so we can track them: [email protected] and [email protected].

Here are some other options:

  1. Starve the Beast Through Direct Action

We were contacted by a resident who was annoyed by watching rolling bags every weekend across the street so took matters into their own hands in a commendable way. They started chatting up guests informing them that the unit formerly housed a couple with a young child who was evicted so that they could enjoy their vacation. If you know the story of who was forced out, tell it—but please protect that person’s personal information. And try to locate the old tenant and tell them their old home is being illegally rented. Remedies for aggrieved tenants are in section 3.

We suggest posting critical flyers or slipping anonymous notes under the door. Be polite. Guests aren’t responsible for the ghosts in an apartment but they can be educated to think twice about their unintentional role in displacement and about Airbnb’s arrogant behavior.

Here is a template that Ted Gullicksen created to be printed on 8.5 x 11 sticker paper.

  1. Properly Report Illegal Hotels

The Office of Short Term Rentals prefers to have the actual listing before opening an investigation. Popular sites to try to locate the problematic buildings are airbnb.com, flipkey, and homeaway (aka vrbo). It is best if you can definitively match the address with either a photo or the host’s name (cross checked with property ownership records.) Please don’t bother OSTR with vague tips they can’t follow up on. In large buildings, they can’t investigate if they don’t know which unit is being rented.

We have some pretty good sleuthing tricks of our own and can help if you email us. But please try to gather the evidence on your own first as we are very busy.

OSTR may also act on alternate evidence that shows ongoing activity. Dated photos of obvious tourist activity (hoards of rolling bags, airport shuttles, signs in entryways that tell guests how to check in or access internet or parking, etc.) You need to be sure that these are paying guests and not relatives visiting for the weekend.

If you are a tenant and worried about retaliation for turning in your landlord or a fellow building dweller, we can report it on your behalf and protect your identity. We file many complaints so there is no way to tell whether we found it ourselves or from a tipster.

The Tenants Union has a policy that we will not act on tips that may get a tenant evicted, however. You should talk to that tenant neighbor yourself and explain the dire eviction threat they face for violating their leases if they continue. You can also email them through the Airbnb website and say something like “I know that you are not registered and this could cause your eviction. If you do not take down this listing I will be forced to report you to the city.” This should spook them enough that no further action will be needed and they will remove the listing. (*Warning this can get you booted from the website as it is a violation of their terms.)

Tenants technically have a get-out-of-jail-free card if their landlord catches them doing STRs without permission. We put an escape hatch into the legislation so that tenants have a chance to cure their lease violation. It was the best we could do for tenants who may not realize Airbnb violates the rules given its popularity and Airbnb’s own marketing. However, it is hard for us to defend sneakily violating one’s lease in order to rent gouge—earn more than one’s monthly rent—in an apartment that may be rent-controlled. We did not fight for the last 45 years to protect and expand rent control so that tenants can turn around and act like greedy landlords, which adds fuel to anti-rent control arguments.

Even with protections for tenants, landlord attorneys can get creative and throw every reason under the sun to evict anyways. Although a STR violation can be cured, tenants may find themselves in a lengthy and expensive eviction defense strategy. Bottom line: Tenants should not engage in short-term rentals unless they have clear written permission from their landlords, have followed the steps to registered with the city, and do not engage in price gouging. The risk is too great for a little quick cash.

If you need help paying rent, may we suggest adding a roommate? This helps someone out in a very tight housing market. Your lease may say otherwise, but it is now your right to add additional roommates thanks to new legislation tenant advocates helped pass.

 

  1. Former tenants can sue for Wrongful Eviction

Were you evicted – and now find that your old home is listed on Airbnb? First check the property information map to see if any short-term rental complaints were filed and request a copy of the report from the investigating agent.

NOTE: If you accepted a buyout offer (not the same as relocation money), then you most likely gave up your right to pursue future litigation. Not all buyouts include this provision, but they often do. You may be able to nullify a settlement agreement if you can prove you signed under duress or were mislead, but it is tricky.

A documented “threat” of eviction where you left willingly rather than going through the formal eviction process may also be considered a wrongful eviction. see our website about Eviction Threats.

Court awarded damages can be a powerful deterrent to all landlords thinking about unscrupulous evictions, which benefits all tenants.

 

  1. Neighbors have standing to sue

Current law allows neighbors within 100 feet of short-term rental and home owner associations legal standing to pursue violators.

Nonprofit housing organizations like ours used to have a (weak) “Private Right of Action” too — before former Sups. Julie Christensen and Scott Wiener conspired to quietly remove it. We are well positioned to be a more effective enforcement compliment; our interest is citywide and our drop-in clinic is often the source of tips about illegal hotels. If they let us, we could step in while the city fails to keep up with enforcement.

Since we lost that right, we encourage all “neighbors within 100 feet” to pursue cases yourselves. You must wait 135-days after filing a complaint with OSTR for that agency to not act, but it is possible given the molasses-like pace of investigating. The Tenants Union can help you best present your evidence and explain the complaint process. If neighbors started taking this step en masse, we could close these illegal rentals down faster than the OSTR staff can answer the phone.

  1. Snitch for the common good

Tattletales can be annoying, but evictions and fraud are worse for our city. If the above tips seem like too much work, the least effort is to contribute to the tip line. Go to our friends at http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/airbnb.html. They investigate tips too. They have the same policy as us…they will not act on information that may lead to a tenant’s eviction. But if you are not sure whether a listing is done by an owner or a tenant, they will research that.

We hope that you will help us crack down on illegal hotels for the sake of tenants, neighbors and to curb speculative prices. We don’t believe sound housing policy should be at the mercy of a few hundred noisy and self-interested “homesharers” backed by a corporation with very deep pockets. A larger coalition of tenants, tenant advocates, homeowners, hotel workers, and even a landlord association agrees that real regulation and enforcement is sorely needed.

Jennifer Fieber has been researching the problem of short-term rentals since 2014 for the Tenants Union. She is now an SFTU staffer.

  • Jean Simenon

    I find it a little disturbing to solve a problem by having the population in SF turn against each other rather than make things work for everyone. Denunciation and snitching are practices that are banned throughout Europe and can not be used legally because such precedents pushed a bad situation into an evil one with endless fighting rather than peaceful resolution through mediation. This is the worst solution that you are offering here.

    SF landlords can’t subsidize lower income folks on their own. Why should some landlords get lucky and have a healthy turnaround of tenants with rents that follow market rates and others have to host tenants who remain there for 30 years. How could this be fair? Why would a tenant who stay for 30 years not have his rent adjusted based on his income rather than some arbitrary inflation index, that doesn’t take food, energy and real estate cost into account? Doesn’t a society truly built on solidarity and wealth distribution want to do this across every citizen not just by random luck? Every new landlord of new constructions doesn’t have the penalty of rent control rules, why not?

    Doesn’t rent control do more damage than short term rental? Rent control keeps 30,000 units off the market, short term rental.. 2000, maybe 3000. If the cost of rent control for ome landlord with very long term tenants was redistributed among all landlords based on wealth/income then it’s very likely that most units off market would become available. Short term rental sutdies from tenants association have shown than less than 2000 units are rented over 90 days/year. There are about 8000 units listed on Airbnb in SF. Why would the 6000 hosts that rent less than the legal 90 days not register given how the pressure is increasing. What is legally prevent these hosts from registering? It’s very likely that the majority are tenants themselves and can’t let their landlords know about their short-term subletting, because it’s the perfect excuse for the landlord to kick their potentially rent-controlled tenants out. The dog is biting its tail. Once you start to go after the majority of Airbnb hosts in SF, you realize that they’re just tenants who are using the platform to make money (to pay their rents probably). So what would be the biggest consequence of this ultra rejection of short term rentals? More tenants being evicted for the benefits of landlords who can finally charge market rate rents on their rent-controlled units.

    Whatever the problem is in the end, here we have an obvious broken system of wealth redistribution. This short term rental issue seems like a smaller problem in the real estate and tenants realm and is the perfect tool for political gain.

    Instead, here, we have real culprits who are greedy and want to keep the last penny for themselves. The first one is Airbnb. They have proven to be a real shitty player in this game. It would have been easy (and maybe cost them a few millions…) for Airbnb to fix their user base and the abusive situations. Let’s go after Airbnb to force them to follow the rules, instead of attacking the ones that benefits positively from short term rental => tenants.

    Also let’s be careful with who we’re fighting this along! The hotels are fighting STR, but the hotels aren’t real allies. They’re mostly multinationals that export profits offshore. They pay their staff minimum wages and that’s not enough to live in SF. STR from tenants and landlords is likely to remain local, benefit local businesses, increase the tax revenues, and help folks remain in SF especially those who depend on supplemental income. So let’s go back to the essentials and use fact based analysis rather than this highly publicized topic with little rationale to fight for tenants and non-speculative landlords so we can all stay here. Let’s not use Russian and American style approach to war: mostly bystander casualties.

    • curiousKulak

      ABnB, as an entity, is a bad actor. Home “sharing” – not so bad (depending, of course, because some of it is v good).

      ABnB purposely “disrupts” the law to increase its revenues-thus-market-worth. They’re a $50?B company; but if 50-70% of their income is potentially illegal, then that makes them really worth only $20-25B. Understandable they’d do whatever for that $25B. But they wouldn’t profit as much – particularly at the IPO. They could provide a legitimate service, albeit slightly (significantly?) less profitable.

      But their enemies lose, by painting the service as particularly noxious; because it serves some who are fed up with rent control, and others who upset the current political power structure. Making it odious to comply isn’t helping, and only encourages Abnb to act inappropriately.

    • WhatIsYourFavoriteColor

      Does rent control do more damage than good? It depends who’s asking the question.

      Does an empty nest couple still need a 3 bedroom apartment? Probably not. Does a married couple looking to start a family need a three bedroom apartment instead of the one bedroom they’ve shared for 8 years? Maybe. Is there any logical way for these people to exchange their living situations in a way that makes financial sense. Not under rent control.

      On the other hand, without rent control San Francisco would be a city of constant displacement. Rental property would be a true free market asset that would generate steady returns for those with the capital to buy in.

      I don’t think rent control laws are executed ideally, but whether you support legislative intervention in the rental market or not reflects your position on the philosophical spectrum regarding the purpose of residential property. On one end, property would be a public utility with the sole purpose of building community, and on the other end, it would be a commodity whose sole purpose is to generate capital. So when you ask whether it does more harm than good, you’ll hear well argued points from the yes camp and the no camp. Under the current system it takes extraordinary luck as a renter or a landlord to extract your intended value without deep pockets.

      AirBnB throws another wrench into this imperfect machine. You say it’s effect is small compared to that of rent control, but it skews harmful for the community focused camp, and there is fear that it will get out of hand before the implications are thoroughly considered.

      • Brian T

        WhatIsYourFavoriteColor makes some great points. To add a bit, what the author of this article and so many people in sf don’t realize is that the SFTU and the policies they support are the reason we have so many “large greedy corporate landlords” in this city.

        They have made it extremely risky to be a small landlord. You might get a reasonable tenant with reasonable turnover. Or you might get someone who stays for 30 years, takes you to tenant court over BS, and literally bankrupts you. The risks are way too high if you only rent a few units or less. Most folks I know have gotten out of the business by TIC, condo converting, or selling out to the big guys.

        On the other hand, if you’re a corporation with 200 units, you make money on many units, lose money on others, hire lawyers and private investigators to go after the bad apples, and it all evens out.

        SFTU has killed the mom and pop landlord. Over regulation always has unintended consequences.

        • WhatIsYourFavoriteColor

          I appreciate the kind words. I suppose I should clarify my position as well. I support the SFTU and the work that they do.

          You may very well be right that the agenda they have pushed forward has killed the mom and pop landlord, but the question we need to ask ourselves is whether that’s a bad thing. Becoming a landlord is an investment, and smart investment strategy suggests a diversified portfolio. Given the barrier to entry vis a vis high real estate costs, buying a rental property would be a very undiversified way to invest a nest egg.

          On the spectrum I think the needle should land maybe three quarters of the way toward housing being a public utility more than a commodity. I have had both mom and pop and corporate landlords, and both have had pros and cons. Mom and pops are more likely to use the family move-in eviction for instance. The SFTU also recognizes the benefits of having locally owned rental housing, and many of the laws exempt single family homes or buildings with only a few units.

          My grander point is that the issue is extremely complicated, with many competing interests. Swinging the pendulum too far in one direction will cause problems and hardships. Lawmakers first need to take a position on where they feel the balance should lie, then work with advocates from both sides to craft legislation with the intention of pushing the needle in whichever way it needs to go to strike that balance. Cities are ever evolving, so this not a fix it and it’s done issue but rather requires thoughtful stewardship.

          • Brian T

            WhatIsYourFavoriteColor, again you make good points. A couple thoughts:

            –The origin of rent control in SF was a reaction to greedy corporate landlords, specifically, egregious rent hikes by Trinity Properties who owned over 2,000 units. Yet the pain is shouldered by the mom and pops.
            –Only single family homes are exempt from rent control. Originally, it only applied to buildings with 4 or more units but the law was later extended to include everything but single family homes. Even a single family home with an illegal in-law is subject to rent control — creating a huge incentive for folks to keep a single family home 1 unit even if the lot could easily accommodate more housing (another unintended consequence).
            –I completely agree that our laws need balance. I however would argue that since rent control was enacted, the pendulum has moved in favor of tenants again and again. Now we are way out of balance. I can’t think of a single instance where the pendulum has swung the other way and laws have become more landlord friendly.

          • curiousKulak

            Well, actually there was one measure about 15 yrs ago that was somewhat LL-friendly – Rule 1.21, the Principle Place of Residence (Pied-a-terre prohibition), which allowed termination of the tenancy if the tenant resided elsewhere. There were tenant advocates that spoke against this position, but its kinda hard to defend for a reasonable person.

            That said, there have been v few (about 3 dozen annually). And its actually pretty difficult to *prove* (to the Rent Boards satisfaction, anyway).

            But with over 100 modifications to the original ordinance over the last 35 yrs, LL did win … 1%? of the time (sorta).

      • curiousKulak

        Just listened to a piece ()think it was Newshour, but can’t find the segment), where they talked about poverty and housing, centered in Milwakee WI. The proposed solution was a nationwide housing voucher (a la Sec. 8) that would allow people access to (better) housing without breaking the bank.

        I’m not sure if I favor this approach or not. But I do think they’re correct that it needs to be solved on a national level.

        Is housing a *right*? Not sure. Do we allow an unlimited population to settle on any vacant piece of land? Then what about water? heat? and their effect on their neighbors? Or do we allow economics to be the gatekeeper? NYCs RC started with war-time shortage of worker’s housing. SFs RC started with the influx of LGBT and housing inhabited by ‘roommates’ rather than traditional families. This ‘special-ness’ factor has only intensified here; while NYC has seen it’s economic ‘specialness’ morph with factory/shipping/warehousing departing and high-end employment more suitable to market-rate (expensive) housing increasing – their ‘specialness’ dissipated by changing economics.

        But housing is not just about ‘community’ – its about politics and economics. And if SF, its been used to build a ‘progressive’ voting block that relies upon outsiders (tourists) to finance its extraordinary benefits. If housing is meant for ‘community’, then the large pot of pension funds should be used to finance and build that community housing. Instead, we have private mom-n-pop LLs used (and often abused) in part because they live next to their tenants.

        If you want to see more units permanently rented out, allow new tenancies – where the owner is present – to be freed from at least Eviction Control and preferably Rent Control as well. Mom-n-pops are actually part of the ‘community’ and much more in touch than some REIT in Orlando or Nyack.

    • Do Something Nice

      Rent control keeps 30,000 units off the market? Please link to a credible source.

      I agree that SF citizens turning in their neighbors seems extreme, but that is what happens when a corporation does everything possible to be the lousiest corporate citizen since Enron.

      • gg99

        Source on rent control keeping units off the market:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/17/us/san-francisco-rent-control-and-unintended-consequences.html

        “Mr. Karnilowicz estimated that 5 percent of the city’s 212,000 rental units (about 10,600) are kept vacant by landlords who would rather not deal with rent control (others estimate the number is higher, about 25,000 units). He said that many owners would rent those homes if there were reforms, like requiring the rich to pay full market value.”

        • Do Something Nice

          Oh boy, that’s some great data. And give that the city’s rent board says that “. . .approximately 170,000 rental units. . .” covered by rent control, that means that the base is even off.

          Regardless, that isn’t data and it isn’t even collaborated by those who don’t have a strong bias.

          • gg99

            This has more and better data:

            http://www.modernluxury.com/san-francisco/story/sympathy-the-landlord

            “We burden mom-and-pop landlords with all kinds of expectations and baggage that we don’t impose on more corporate types. That’s partly because they are, well, moms and pops, with all the psychodrama that those words imply, and partly because they are such a prominent feature of the rental picture here. A 2003 study (old, but still the most recent solid data available) found that 75 percent of landlords in the city owned fewer than 10 units; 42 percent lived in a building that they rented out. They were also much more likely to manage their own rental properties than landlords nationwide, increasing the potential for friction with their tenants, and they held on to those buildings longer—three decades was not unusual. An estimated 80 percent of rent-controlled properties in San Francisco are mom-and-pop owned.”

    • Understand that the Office of Short-Term Rentals was established with too little power, leaving investigations in the hands of citizens, specifically so people like you can come along and deride it as “snitching.” Lovely little loophole there, the only question is whether you’re being duped by it or deliberately going along with it.

  • 4th Gen SF

    Lots of poor people in SF & the world are using AirBnB to pay their mortgages. So, they should just be thrown onto the street because you want their units as rentals? Come on now.

    • erikschn

      You really believe that propaganda put out by SFBARF, YIMBY and AirBnB? You know they only use that B.S. so they don’t have to admit the truth, that they are actually pushing poor people out of the city!

      • 4th Gen SF

        Do you own a home or rent or do you even live in SF at this point?

        • erikschn

          Yup, I rent in SF. Have for the last 20 years, because I’m too poor to own a home because all the elitist a-holes in this city have been forcing up the home prices so they can rent them on AirBnB. SF has always been a city of renters, and since the corrupt elected officials who have been bought out by AirBnB won’t do anything to piss off their financial overlords, it seems like it’s time for renters to take up a guerilla actions like this to keep you greedy jerks in-line so we can keep living here!

          • 4th Gen SF

            Are you the bitter but wealthy guy in North Beach who owns in Spain?

          • Rosemarg

            I own in San Francisco and hate what AirBNB has done to SF and other cities. If I can’t make my mortgage, I will rent a room out. If that is too much trouble, I sell and move. Everyone who has bought here in the last 30 + years knew about rent control. All these people who have to lease out to AirBNB rather than rent to pay their mortgage are ridiculous. Also guaranteed, most of their neighbors despise them.

          • Sanchez Resident

            I bought my two unit building before Prop. I passed. Prop. I changed the rent control rules including two to four unit buildings under the Rent Ordinance. Changing the rules is a big issue and contributes to units being withdrawn from the market. I don’t want to sell my house, I’m very happy here. But, I don’t want a permanent tenant. I rent my unit as corporate housing. I rent for 30+ days but at a rate that no one would pay for decades. My corporate clients usually are gone in less than one year.

          • Rosemarg

            Corporate housing is a different issue that AirBNB though. These aren’t people here partying on vacation for a few nights. Also sounds like you are on site, if I was your neighbor I’d appreciate that as well. You are correct, the rules have changed and I should account for it. Most of the places I have had problems with personally are single family homes with absentee landlords.

          • 4th Gen SF

            When did you buy your place in SF?

          • Rosemarg

            First place 12 years ago, sold and bought a new one this year. My parents have had their home for 46 years.

          • 4th Gen SF

            So, you’re not hurting for $ like the homeowners I’m talking about.

          • Rosemarg

            Actually I had problems making payments on my first place so I sold and got somewhere smaller and cheaper. That’s what most people do.

      • Gertrude Stein

        Air Bnb began in 2008, and it really started taking off a few years after that. The housing crisis in SF was horrible way before Air Bnb came on the scene. Obviously, I agree that you should only use Air Bnb on property that you LIVE in. We need better enforcement of that. And Air BNB needs to start releasing more of it’s information and statistics. However, pretty much everyone I know who uses it are low and middle income households.

    • Sigmarlin

      Tenants have way more to lose in the Airbnb game. Homeowners have way more options and security….as an odious “homesharer” said in a public hearing: “Without Airbnb, I might have to sell my (million dollar) house and move to Marin!!” ***Gasp! Oh the horror.

      That is a tad better than being a tenant of 40 years who finds themselves on the streets after an Ellis-to-Airbnb eviction.

      • 4th Gen SF

        So, you personally get to choose who lives in SF? Homeowners don’t get to according to you but renters do? That does not make sense.

        • Overpaid

          I personally get to choose who I unleash a little bit of Airbnb style “disruption” on should someone be foolish enough to pull some illegal shenanigans and violate zoning laws in my building. For some, it’s all they would understand, the disruption of the disruptors…

          • 4th Gen SF

            Are you advocating violence against innocent people renting AirBnB? SMDH.

          • Geek__Girl

            Wow, even you fall back on the straw man argument. He said NOTHING about violence, and in fact, compared when he was suggesting to the crap pulled by companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft. Now, unless you wish to admit that those companies are engaging in violence, I suggest you reconsider, and withdraw such a silly remark.

          • Overpaid

            Nobody is innocent, we have lived in a nation of felons for decades now and if you think otherwise, I recommend you bring that sub to the surface and charge your batteries. Airbnb breaks laws all day long in countries far and wide. But we who oppose them are limited to the law? They care not one whit what they’re doing besides making money and people using the service are enabling their continued damage of communities they’re entrenched in, like a cancer. A big disgusting life eating tumor. So when these “poor people” who come from distant places or Reno NV show up to here and use the service because apparently it’s the only way they can afford a vacation (which isn’t a human right BTW but a luxury) and their presence puts the safety and security of my family at risk, they should be mindful that some sort or retaliation is eminent, it’s human nature. I didn’t move next door to the MUNI yard in Potrero Hill for a reason, it sucks. The same could be said for living off Union Square right? That’s why we have zoning laws, so that people can choose to buy or rent in residential areas not designed for rogue hoteliers and they’re party loving millennials from Spain, or a family of 4 from Lodi, it makes no difference. It takes away from the publics pursuit of happiness which last I heard was protected by something other than Ed Lee or Brian Chesky .

            If as you say that it’s just poor SF homeowners trying to get by (which is laughable), maybe they should move away? Take a little of the same advice they offer the homeless which is “get out” -hypocrisy knows no economic border so they’re welcome to kick rocks. So to convey the message they’re not seeming to get and since they can’t seem to understand that laws apply to everyone, they might need to be shown a time or two in terms they understand that may gray a line or two. Me though, I would never advocate violence, I’m kind of a pussy anyways. However at 6’4 240 I can get my point across without slapping some jackass in the earhole, but that’s just me…

          • 4th Gen SF

            Aren’t you the truck driver who owns something in SF ? You are really kind of boring.

        • Geek__Girl

          ROTFL! No, you seem to be the arrogant jerk who claims that right. Airbnb is an illegal operation, that flaunts the laws of San Francisco and that has caused actual harm to a number of people.

    • KOinSF

      If they follow the law, there is no problem. Rent out an extra bedroom for a few months a year, you cannot rent entire units all year long, and many do.

      • 4th Gen SF

        Does SF follow laws? IE, sanctuary cities, shielding criminals, hey taking in #KateSteinle’s murderer? Yeah right.

        • KOinSF

          Oh brother, another Discus poster I need to block? (I do not believe you are 4th gen anything

          • 4th Gen SF

            Please block. I am a 4th gen SFer. You OTOH, are probably from elsewhere.

          • Mike K

            Guaranteed. They complain the most.

        • Geek__Girl

          Calling someone who accidentally shot another, a murderer, is pretty lame.

    • Do Something Nice

      Bullshit Entire neighborhoods of poor people have been displaced for short-term rentals. Rents were rising to much in Berlin that AirBnB was banned.

    • flight505

      The owners of 1314 Eddy Street bought the place (at way above “fair” market value) so they could turn it into a full time hotel. After ten months, they got busted. Because they can gross $12,000 a month on the place, it was a “good” investment. Problem is, now they can’t do it anymore and since there appears to be a mortgage on the place, they may well have committed fraud when they applied for the mortgage (residential and commercial loans are quite different). They also attempted to register with the OSTR using fake information. I’m thinking jail time for fraud would be appropriate.

      • 4th Gen SF

        I have no idea what OSTR is. But if that’s what they want to do with their property I have no problem with it. We do not need a nanny state here in CA.

  • EllaFitzbunbun

    Great information for SF residents!

  • curiousKulak

    “… so hosts choose a permanent tenant over a tourist.”

    And that’s the problem right there. Jennifer doesn’t recognize it, but would she want to incur a permanent-in-obligation relationship?

    Typical household pets: 10-20 yrs. Marriage partners: 8 yrs, on average. Employees: certainly not permanent these days. Tenants: forever!

    So who wants to take on a tenant relationship that, by law, pays less and less each year (due to the inflation index) and only gains in privileges; and now there’s no control over who occupies the downstairs unit. If it were me, i might take a 5 yr (max) tenant (is that permanent enuf?) – or even longer without Eviction Controls – over ABnB. But renting out permanently? Naw.

  • Brian T

    Maybe rather than focusing on “making illegal hotels unprofitable so hosts choose a permanent tenant over a tourist”, you might try making choosing a tenant less onerous and not permanent.

    I have an in-law (that I’ve never Airbnb’d). But I would never in a million years rent it to a permanent tenant. Tenants by definition shouldn’t be permanent. With the insane, utterly unfair, and unconscionable tenants rights laws in the city, I just enjoy having a whole lot of storage space instead.

    Forcing someone with an in-law suite to rent in perpituiaty at a rate that by law declines in real dollars every year is stupid. So many vacant and under developed spaces as a result.

    But yeah. Keep focusing all your energy on Airbnb as if that’s the real problem.

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  • zutsa

    AirBnb taking otherwise full-time units off the market to become illegal hotel rooms is definitely contributing to the crisis, but I sometimes feel that it (and all of tech in general) is disproportionately getting blame. People are so quick to point out that there are entire buildings being converted from rent-controlled apartments to full time AirBnb hotels. If this is true, then which buildings are we talking about here? I’ve yet to see an example of a 10+ unit building being converted. Am I missing something? Wouldn’t the SFTU and other organizations have picketed outside of these buildings by now?

    As I read through the comments here it’s clear that there are a lot of solid arguments surrounding the current state of rent control, tenant protection laws, the risk of being a landlord, etc. that are complex and require at least a basic knowledge of economics to understand. I see these comments on every housing crisis article. These are ballot measures, concepts, and problems that predate tech, yet I don’t see any articles about these long-term problems on any local media. Every day there is an article by 48hills, SFist, Examiner, etc. in which the author finds roundabout ways to blame tech for the housing crisis, even if the data is shoddy or the numbers are small. While most of them have some merit, none of them talk about any of the higher-level and longstanding factors in the rental market that are most likely the largest culprits in this crisis.

    We need less media like this article (pitting us versus them) and more like the comments here where critical thinking is applied to both sides of the rental coin. What works for both tenants and landlords? What parts of rent-control work, and which don’t? Are tenant protections too strict? Are landlords disincentivized to rent? Are developers disincentivized to build? Or is it just easier to blame newcomers and tech?

    You can live in this fantasy world where ratting out your next door landlord for hosting an AirBnb and think that you’re helping the crisis. But in reality, even if the landlord does get the book thrown at them, they aren’t suddenly going to have a heart of gold and rent the unit at 2010 prices from now until eternity. The bigger problems will still be there.

    • Do Something Nice

      THERE IS NO DATA THAT PROVE RENT CONTROL IS THE REASON FOR OUR HOUSING CRISIS.

      And if anything, since rent control only covers buildings built before 1979, it should be having the opposite effect – more buildings being built to cash in on higher rents.

      • zutsa

        I’m not blaming rent control, but I think it may hurt more than it helps in its current iteration. The 1979 threshold seems arbitrary. The new buildings being built to cash in on higher rents can only do so because rent is so high because of all of the other rent controlled units being artificially low.

        Rent control is great when you have it, but when you get evicted because your landlord has a financial incentive to skirt around your rent control, you’re then thrown into a hugely inflated market because of, you guessed it, rent control.

        Say a landlord owns a 10 unit building under rent control, and three other single family buildings that are not under rent control. Something happens and the landlord needs to raise rent. Maybe he needs to seismically retrofit his 10 unit building. He can’t get any more money out of the rent controlled units. What does he do? Pull money from where he can: his non rent controlled units. Instead of raising all of his 13 units by 3-5% to cover the cost of the retrofit, he raises the rent of his non rent controlled units (legally) by 70% each, effectively kicking out those tenants and thrusting them into the incredibly inflated market. Why do the rent controlled tenants get that iron-clad protection, but the tenants in the single family have to subsidize? It’s arbitrary. It doesn’t need to go away, it needs some kind of reform. RC is obviously vital, but there needs to be more of a middle ground.

        • Do Something Nice

          100% of mandated seismic retrofit work can be passed through to tenants, regardless if the unit is under rent control or not. Ditto for energy conservation work.

          More about that here:

          http://sfrb.org/fact-sheet-5-landlord-petitions-and-passthroughs

          • zutsa

            That is good to know, but I only used the seismic retrofitting as an example. Point being when a landlord needs to raise rent, no matter the reason, the non rencontrolled tenants unfairly shoulder the burden. It doesn’t make sense, and leads to a lopsided market like we see today.

          • Do Something Nice

            Have you read how things were before rent control? It was pretty awful.

          • zutsa

            Ok but I’m not saying it should go away. It’s a step in the right direction but I’m not convinced that it can’t be improved upon drastically.

          • curiousKulak

            And what direction is the ‘right one’?

            To my mind, RC provides a measure of continuity and stability. You know, kinda like a 1 or 2 yr (or 5 yr) Lease. I would suggest this as a format for dealing with future rentals. Now, there may still be problems with this approach, but its a good place to begin a dialog.

            For LLs, one big concern is getting stuck with someone who presents problems right out of the gate. Noise. Bounced checks, General messiness. So I would suggest that RC not take hold until a probabltionary period of some sort – 1 yr, 6 mths at least. If a tenant is even somewhat good, most Mom-n-pops are going to let them stay – even if rents have crept upward (hassle finding new tenants, “the devil you know …”).

            What I feel is *not* a good direction is to make rent levels decrease over time, like the current arrangement. Even homeowners pay more for all other aspects of their housing (costs for repairs, utilities, tax additions, etc) go up. Dropping rents only makes moving harder for a tenant (who might actually want and need to move!), keeps units frozen in time, and doesn’t allow for changes in people’s life-circumstances to effectively be mirrored in their housing arrangements.

            Even Prop 13 has a provision for long-time owners moving to a smaller home (downsizing) to effectively take their low prop tax level to their new home – which would otherwise have a significanty higher tax rate. RC apts should have this – with the difference made up by the City. It would free up more large apts to house more people. To me that would be a ‘step in the right direction’ – but you won’t hear that in the common discussion of housing or rent control issues.

            RC has some admitted benefits; but its implementation is moving (imo) in the wrong direction.

          • curiousKulak

            Yes! I was absolutely APPALLED when rent for our 5 rm apt went from $300/ to $375! Simply outrageous!

            No matter that I was probably paying <8% of (middle) income on housing.

            It was SO bad that I thought about moving … and there were cheaper places … but, it was (slightly) inconvenient to do so.

          • curiousKulak

            One could say that there are people who could & should pay. And then there are those who can’t (but maybe should be made to pay; or the owner deserves to be compensated for them for that).

            What is without a doubt is that the RC laws are extremely tenant-friendly.

          • curiousKulak

            however, there are exceptions even to that “100%” …

      • curiousKulak

        RC is not the cause of the housing crisis. But it doesn’t help. Lack of building is the cause (or, if you like, new well-paying jobs replacing dying industries). And RC beneficiaries become NIMBYs of a sort, since more people creates greater complications and insecurity for them. Unions in private industry have a salutary effect; but govmint unions are corrupting to the institutions they’re supposed to serve. Its hard to recognize since all the costs have not been paid. I would maintain that RC has a similar potential for avalanche.

        But while the ‘majority’ of Cities in the BA don’t have RC, the largest ones do: SF, Oak, San Jose Hayward (and the list keeps growing).

        And to be truthful, statistical data for the Bay Area is not granular enuf to detect such anomalies. When surveys include ‘SF/SM/Marin counties, or SF/Oak/Hayward, or SF-county (thus SF-the-city) but no other cities alone or in comparision, how can vital distincitons be recognized?

  • San Francisco tenant

    A neighbor of mine of mine purchased a BMR apartment condo 5 yrs ago, moved out a year later to buy a big house in the burbs, rented the BMR unit out at market rate and now the tenant is Airbnb-ing the unit without a permit. Does the City monitor BMR abuse?

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