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March 20, 2024

Airbnb & Short Term Rental Laws and Regulations In San Francisco - 2024

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Overview of San Francisco Short-Term Rental Laws

San Francisco's short-term rental regulation framework is designed to balance the needs of residents with the opportunities presented by rental platforms like Airbnb. Ensuring the availability of housing and preserving neighborhood character are at the heart of the city's legal stance on this issue.

Scope and Applicability

The San Francisco Short-Term Residential Rental Ordinance governs the short-term rental market within the city. It applies to rentals of residential property for periods of less than 30 nights. This ordinance attempts to ensure that such rentals do not negatively impact the availability of permanent housing or disrupt local communities. All hosts must register with the city, and renting out unregistered properties is prohibited.

  • Applicable to: Rentals of less than 30 nights
  • Requirement: Mandatory registration for hosts

Key Legal Definitions

Under San Francisco's regulations, a short-term rental is defined as the rental of all or part of a residential unit for periods of less than 30 nights. The law distinguishes between hosted and unhosted rentals. Hosted rentals occur while the permanent resident is present, whereas unhosted rentals imply that the resident is away.

  • Short-Term Rental: A rental of a residential unit for <30 nights
  • Hosted: Resident is present during rental
  • Unhosted: Resident is absent during rental

The ordinance stipulates that a host can only rent out their primary residence, which is defined by a minimum occupancy of 275 nights per year by the owner. Compliance with this provision aims to prevent short-term rentals from reducing the city's long-term housing stock.

Registration Requirements for Hosts in San Francisco

In San Francisco, hosts looking to rent out their properties for short-term stays must navigate a series of regulatory steps to comply with the local ordinances. They are required to obtain proper certificates and register with the city to ensure their eligibility.

Registration Process

The registration process involves interacting with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Hosts must provide proof of permanent residency, as they can only list their primary residence for short-term rentals. This implies that the host must occupy the property for at least 275 nights per year. Upon satisfying these conditions, hosts receive a registration number which must be displayed on all listings.

Short-Term Rental Certificate

Acquiring a Short-Term Residential Rental Certificate is mandatory. It serves as authorization to rent out residential property for less than 30 nights. The certificate confirms the host’s status as a resident of San Francisco and that they have met all residency requirements. The Office of Short-Term Rentals oversees the issuance of this certificate and monitors compliance.

Business Registration Certificate

To complement the rental certificate, hosts are also required to secure a Business Registration Certificate from the Treasurer and Tax Collector's Office. Prospective hosts must establish a business account number tied to the property and ensure that their rental activity adheres to the legal framework established for eligible properties.

Operating Conditions for Short-Term Rentals in San Francisco

In San Francisco, specific regulations govern how short-term rentals must operate to maintain legal compliance. These rules are crucial for hosts to follow diligently.

Primary Residence Rule

San Francisco mandates that short-term rental properties be the primary residence of the host. This means that a host can only rent out their residential space if it is where they live for at least 275 nights per year. Documentation proving primary residency is a cornerstone of compliance for short-term rental operations.

Insurance Requirements

Liability insurance is mandatory for hosts operating short-term rentals in San Francisco. The minimum coverage amount required is typically $500,000. Alternatively, hosting platforms like Airbnb and VRBO may provide suitable coverage options as part of their service to registered hosts.

Occupancy Limits

Regulations set clear occupancy limits for short-term rentals, both for the number of guests per night and the total number of nights rented annually. Short-term rental hosts must adhere to a cap of 90 nights per year for entire home listings. There is no annual limit for renting out spare rooms while the host is present.

Hosting Platforms Compliance

Hosting platforms are required to ensure that listed properties have a valid registration number issued by the City of San Francisco. Platforms are prohibited from processing bookings for listings that do not demonstrate compliance with city regulations. This shared responsibility ensures that both the individual short-term rental hosts and the platforms like Airbnb and VRBO operate within the legal framework.

Taxation and Fees for Short-Term Rentals in San Francisco

In San Francisco, short-term rental hosts are subject to specific local taxation and fees. These financial obligations include the Transient Occupancy Tax, Business Personal Property Tax, and various application and renewal fees, all managed by the San Francisco Treasurer & Tax Collector's Office.

Transient Occupancy Tax

Short-term rental hosts in San Francisco are required to collect a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) from guests, which is currently set at a rate of 14% of the rent. This tax applies to all rentals that last less than 30 consecutive days. Hosts must then remit this tax to the San Francisco Treasurer & Tax Collector. Additionally, hosts must obtain a Certificate of Authority to collect the tax from their guests.

Business Personal Property Tax

The Business Personal Property Tax is applicable to hosts who provide short-term rentals in San Francisco. This tax is assessed on the furnishings, appliances, and other personal property used in the rental business. Short-term rental operators are expected to report these items to the Tax Collector using their Business Account Number (BAN), obtained when registering the business.

Application and Renewal Fees

To operate as a short-term rental host in San Francisco, individuals must complete a registration process, which includes payment of an application fee. The current fee is available on the San Francisco Treasurer & Tax Collector’s website. This initial registration must be renewed annually, accompanied by a renewal fee. These costs contribute to the administrative expenses of managing the short-term rental program in the city.

Rules for Multi-Unit Buildings and Land Use in San Francisco

San Francisco's approach to short-term rentals in multi-unit buildings is detailed and specific, aiming to balance housing availability with the economic benefits of tourism. Its regulations involve careful consideration of Accessory Dwelling Units, the Ellis Act, affordable housing policy, zoning laws, and special use districts.

Accessory Dwelling Units

In San Francisco, multi-unit buildings may offer Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) for short-term rentals. However, these units must adhere to their own set of regulations to ensure they don't detract from the city's long-term housing stock. The San Francisco Planning Department offers guidance on ADUs, aiming to increase affordable housing while allowing some flexibility for property owners.

Ellis Act and Affordable Housing

The Ellis Act is a state law that allows landlords to exit the rental market. In San Francisco, property owners invoking the Ellis Act must comply with local regulations protecting affordable housing. These include restrictions on converting rental units into short-term rentals, a measure designed to prevent a loss of affordable housing options for residents. The city mandates replacement provisions for affordable housing to ensure a balanced development.

Zoning and Special Use Districts

San Francisco's zoning laws and special use districts are critical in determining where short-term rentals are permissible. The nuances of these regulations are managed by the Planning Department, which ensures that property owners comply with building code compliance and land use policies. Short-term rentals in multi-unit buildings must adhere to the specific limitations and allowances of the zone they're situated in, often dictating the number and type of units that can be rented out on platforms like Airbnb. The city's regulations are available for reference to clarify these specific zoning requirements.

Enforcement and Penalties in San Francisco

San Francisco maintains strict enforcement and penalties for violations of short-term rental laws. They aim to ensure that dwellings comply with restrictions and that short-term rental activities support community housing stability.

Monitoring and Reporting Violations

The Office of Short-Term Rentals (OSTR) is tasked with overseeing compliance with San Francisco’s short-term rental regulations. Individuals who wish to report suspected violations can contact the OSTR. This entity also requires hosts to submit quarterly reports detailing their rental activity.

Administrative Hearings and Penalties

When violations occur, the OSTR can hold administrative hearings. If found non-compliant, hosts may face consequences. The penalties are enforced to encourage adherence to rules such as holding a valid short-term rental certificate and limiting rentals to less than 30 nights, unless specified otherwise.

Fines and Notices

San Francisco imposes fines that scale with the severity and frequency of the offense. Notably, fines of at least $484 per day can be levied for each dwelling unit in violation. Repeat offenders or those with egregious breaches may receive increased penalties and even face referral for additional civil or criminal actions.

Prohibitions and Special Considerations in San Francisco

In San Francisco, the landscape of short-term rentals is defined by specific prohibitions and special considerations aimed at balancing the interests of landlords, tenants, and the community. These rules affect where and how properties can be utilized for short-term hospitality purposes.

Prohibited Spaces for Short-Term Rentals

Short-term rentals are strictly banned in certain types of housing and spaces within San Francisco to maintain the integrity and intent of these properties. Below-Market-Rate (BMR) units, spaces designated for long-term residential tenancy, and buildings labeled as Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) are not permitted to participate in short-term rental platforms like Airbnb. Prohibitions also extend to industrial spaces, vehicles, sleeping quarters designated for permanent residency, outdoor areas not suitable for lodging, and properties located in areas like The Presidio, Fort Mason, and Treasure Island due to their special status or federal ownership.

Landlords cannot offer short-term rentals in multi-unit buildings without adhering to specific lease restrictions. Additionally, offering un-hosted short-term stays for more than a certain number of days per calendar year is not allowed, ensuring that homes are not converted into de facto hotels.

Special Regulations for Certain Districts

Various districts within San Francisco are subject to special regulations that go beyond the general city-wide restrictions. Areas may have limits on the number of days a unit can be rented or may require hosting platforms to verify that a listing has a valid registration before it can be advertised. For instance, a legal short-term rental must provide evidence of consistent occupancy by the tenant as their primary residence, typically proved by a utility bill or similar documentation.

San Francisco also imposes strict regulations

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the complexities of short-term rental regulations in San Francisco is essential for hosts to avoid penalties and remain compliant. This section provides clear answers to common queries regarding the registration and operation of short-term rentals in the city.

How do I register a short-term rental in San Francisco?

To register a short-term rental in San Francisco, hosts must obtain a business registration certificate from the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector and a short-term residential rental certificate from the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Detailed steps can be found on the SF Planning's FAQ page.

What are the restrictions for short-term rentals in San Francisco?

Short-term rental restrictions in San Francisco include the requirement that the property must be the host’s primary residence, the host must reside in the unit for at least 275 nights per year, and certain types of units are prohibited from being rented out on a short-term basis. Find more specifics on the SF Planning's Office of Short Term Rentals website.

Can you explain the 90-day rule for short-term rentals in San Francisco?

San Francisco imposes a cap of 90 days per calendar year for un-hosted short-term rentals. This means that if the host is not present during the guest's stay, the property may only be rented out for up to 90 days within the year. For a more elaborate explanation, refer to the Nolo's overview of Airbnb laws in San Francisco.

What are the penalties for non-compliance with San Francisco's short-term rental regulations?

Penalties for not complying with San Francisco's short-term rental regulations range from fines to placement on the City's ineligible host list, which can lead to a suspension from hosting platforms. Violations can incur significant financial penalties, as outlined by SF Planning.

How do the new California state laws affect short-term rentals in San Francisco?

Recent California state laws may preempt local regulations, offering a unified framework for short-term rental operations. Hosts should stay updated as laws evolve to ensure continued compliance with both state and city regulations. A complete guide to Airbnb rules that includes state laws influence in San Francisco can be found on HostTools.

What is required to operate a legally compliant furnished short-term rental in San Francisco?

Operating a legally compliant furnished short-term rental in San Francisco requires hosts to maintain all necessary permits, adhere to the 90-day rule for un-hosted rentals, ensure proper insurance, and accurate listing descriptions. Hosts must also keep records for at least two years. Review all detailed requirements at the San Francisco Planning Department.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal, financial, or tax advice. Consult your own legal, financial, or tax advisor for matters mentioned here. The information on this site is general in nature. Any description of coverage is necessarily simplified. Whether a particular loss is covered depends on the specific facts and the provisions, exclusions and limits of the actual policy. Nothing on this site alters the terms or conditions of any of our policies. You should read the policy for a complete description of coverage. Coverage options, limits, discounts, deductibles and other features are subject to individuals meeting our underwriting criteria and state availability. Not all features available in all states. Discounts may not apply to all coverages. Steadily is not liable for any actions taken based on this information. If you believe any of this information may be inaccurate please contact us.

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