airbnb san francisco

Even though San Francisco, the hometown of Airbnb, has gone much further than most cities to regulate short-term rental platforms, a new report issued by the city shows most short-term home rentals and hosts operating in the city are not abiding by local laws.

The policy analysis report, issued on April 7, found the following:

  • Most short-term rental hosts are out of compliance and have not registered with the city’s Office of Short-Term Rentals (OSTR). As of November, the OSTR received 1,082 registration applications, but that suggests 4,296, or 79.9 percent of the 5,378 unique hosts listed on Airbnb for that month did not register.
  • Since February 2015, when the city enacted new laws regulating short-term rentals, approximately 26.1 percent of entire home listings where the host is not present appear to have been rented for more than 90 nights a year between February and November 2015, a violation of the city’s 90-night cap.

To compile this report, the city analyzed data supplied by Airbnb as of March 15, 2016, and Flipkey (whose parent company is TripAdvisor), as well as webscrapes from December 2014 and November 2015, both conducted by Murray Cox, one of the founders of Inside Airbnb.

In November, Inside Airbnb discovered that Airbnb had removed some 1,500 listings from New York City prior to releasing its data on the city, and thereby skewing the numbers of operators with multiple listings, or those in violation of New York City’s multiple dwelling law. The webscrapes Cox conducted apply software algorithms to publicly available data on Airbnb’s listings in a particular city.

Cox’s New York findings were initially rejected, then accepted by Airbnb as an accurate reflection of its November actions.

The data presented in the city’s report, not surprisingly, does not seem to align with data presented by Airbnb for the period from March 15, 2015 to March 15, 2016, for the most part. On April 2, Airbnb released this data and said it would begin investigating San Francisco hosts with more than one listing, pledging to remove “unwelcome commercial operators” or those running illegal hotels in private homes.

According to Airbnb, only about a fifth of the city’s full-home rentals, or 1,149 listings, are run by hosts who rent more than one entire home on the platform. Of those 1,149 listings, 478 are legally listed by licensed hotels or comprise legal rentals of 30 or more days. The other 671 listings, however, are run by 288 hosts who may soon be removed from the Airbnb platform. Although these 288 hosts’ listings only make up about 7 percent of all listings in the city, they generated 17 percent of all host revenue in San Francisco from March 15, 2015 to March 15, 2016.

One important piece of data not included in Airbnb’s numbers, however, relates to the number of entire home listings that are rented for more than 90 days a year. The Airbnb data also did not look at the number of hosts registered with the OSTR.

Airbnb issued the following statement in response to the city’s report:

“Airbnb is already working to help meet The City’s goal of fighting illegal hotels and we are taking action by removing unwelcome listings from our platform, releasing data and cracking down on commercial operators. Unfortunately, the registration process remains a challenge — 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.”

It’s worth noting that Airbnb’s CEO violated the city’s short-term rental laws for at least eleven months following the passage of the city’s Airbnb-friendly law.

Airbnb’s statement continued:

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