Airbnb cracks down on illegal hotels in its home town

About 7 percent of full-home rentals in San Francisco are likely to be breaking the law.

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Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images
Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

San Francisco regulates short-term rental services like Airbnb, but there's still plenty of abuse. Locals can still point to property owners illegally offering short-term stays in homes they don't live in, making an already dire housing situation even worse. However, Airbnb is now promising to do something about it. It's investigating hosts in its home town with multiple listings, and promises to kick out "unwelcome commercial operators" that are running illegal hotels. The company reckons that 671 whole-home listings (from just 288 hosts), or about 7 percent of all San Francisco listings, are suspicious enough to warrant a closer look.

Airbnb says that it has already been purging some listings: it got rid of 218 of them between September 2015 and this January. However, it's implementing a new San Francisco policy that allows only one whole-home listing on a short-term basis. Theoretically, that should stop bootleg hotels from getting off the ground and limit multi-property rentals to hosts that either have hotel licenses or are renting for longer stays (over 30 days).

The move is important for San Francisco, which has had a tough time enforcing its own law. With that said, though, there are still plenty of questions. Why didn't Airbnb tighten its controls as soon as the rental law took effect in February 2015, for example? And, as SFGate notes, Airbnb's data doesn't say how many hosts illegally rented whole homes for more than 90 days per year -- are they getting the boot, too? This move (as well as similar efforts in places like New York City) should still help residents take back some of their city, but there's a concern that Airbnb hasn't been as aggressive with purges as it could be.

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