Today HomeAway filed suit against the city and county of San Francisco because of a regulation that we believe unconstitutionally restricts the vacation rental industry. We’re litigating because we feel it’s the only avenue the Board of Supervisors and Mayor left open to those who oppose the law, which goes into effect February 1, 2015.
We usually prefer to work quietly and collaboratively with local jurisdictions as they struggle with creating modern regulations for an industry that is 70 years old in the U.S., and even older in Europe. But the effort is made difficult when a city such as San Francisco is inundated with emotionally-charged and frankly, false, fears of corporations turning entire neighborhoods into hotels, destroying the fabric of communities and driving people from their homes.
One might think that cities would include owners of vacation rentals and industry experts to help them shape the ordinance. Some cities do that successfully; but in San Francisco, the focus seemed to be squarely on legalizing Airbnb, and the vacation rental industry got left out.
As the leader of the vacation rental industry, we oppose this law because:
It only bans second home owners from renting short term, while allowing local homeowners to do so; strangely, it allows a tenant of that second home owner to offer the home for up to 90 days per year;
It requires people to make their properties available only through online services that don’t have to let customers know who’s renting their property until the platform collects and holds their money;
And, it limits competition by outlawing all but one business model in San Francisco.
Quite simply, the San Francisco ordinance is bad public policy and, if it can’t be amended, it must be stopped.
So what DOES fair regulation and forward-thinking public policy regulating short-term rentals look like?
HomeAway agrees with the position statement of the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), which says, “fair regulation of short-term rentals ensures greater compliance and greater receipt of local hotel taxes” and “regulations that accomplish these goals can achieve a high level of compliance, and are highly effective.” Therefore, HomeAway believes municipalities should make laws that are:
Easy to comply with—
Registration obligations should be clear, concise and reasonably priced and feature a clear way for a municipality to identify and contact the owner of the property or his agent.
Tax collection and remittance obligations should be easy to find and simple to follow, preferably with online payment options.
Second home owners should have the same rights as primary home owners, and short-term rental owners should have the same rights as long-term rental owners.
Tenants should be able to rent with the permission from the owner of the property.
Respectful of community–
Support “Good Neighbor” laws that are current regulations in most communities.
Hold the person offering the property for rent accountable for compliance.
We’ll keep you posted on our progress, but in the meantime, we ask you to help fight for the Right to Rent (#RighttoRent) for all those who advertise short term rentals and all of you who want the right to stay in a vacation rental in San Francisco by signing our petition here: https://www.change.org/p/san-francisco-amend-your-unconstitutional-short-term-rental-regulation.