The times, they are a-changin’. And in San Francisco the most recent change is that AirBnB is now legit under city law. There are limits and there will be taxes, but ad hoc rental of homes as pseudo-hotels will officially be legal when the new law takes effect in February 2015.
Hosts looking to “make ends meet” by gathering a bit of extra revenue when they are away from home will need to meet a set of parameters aimed at protecting both the guests and the concept of not displacing real tenants to run make-shift hotels in an apartment building. Among the requirements: a half-million dollar liability insurance policy, a business license and a permit from the city. Also, rentals will only be permitted for 90 days of a year for “whole home” listings, the type which are generally the closest to faux-hotel (fauxtel?!?) operations. Oh, and AirBnB will collect the 14% hotel tax on behalf of its San Francisco-based hosts and remit that money to the city. There will be additional laws coming in the near future to help non-profit organizations protect tenants who feel they are being pushed out by landlords looking to run hotels rather than apartment buildings and other, similar situations.
At first glance this seems like it just might be the right blend of compromise. AirBnB wanted even fewer limits on the amount of time properties could be rented out while some wanted more from the company, including payment of back-taxes or more restrictive rules on shared room listings. The liability insurance part is probably a smart move for everyone involved (I wonder if AirBnB will come up with a way to underwrite that as part of the fees charged in San Francisco, similar to how Uber provides such for its drivers). As for the permit and business license, that’s certainly a bit of regulatory overhead, but these are businesses. Sure, just something run out of a home, but it is still a business. Regulating them as such just a little bit seems quite reasonable to me.
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