Illegal short-term rentals

Your landlord rents your next door apartment to strangers for short-term rentals. You notice that about every 10 days, a stranger appears at the door of the apartment and picks up the morning paper. You suspect this type of short term rental is not allowed under the San Francisco Rent Ordinance, but you are not sure.

Renting out a private residential apartment for a term of less than 30 days is illegal in San Francisco. In 1981, after a rash of single room occupancy units was converted to residential hotels, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance. This ordinance forbids a landlord from renting an apartment for less than 30 days without obtaining a permit to convert the property to tourist use. Obtaining a permit converting a unit costs about $40,000 per unit.

The Department of Building Inspection and the Planning Department are supposed to enforce laws regarding short-term rentals. Once an investigator finds an illegal rental, investigators are supposed to alert the City Attorney’s office for possible prosecution. That has not happened. Instead, illegal, unapproved short-term vacation rentals have blossomed in San Francisco in recent years. Available apartments in certain highly desirable neighborhoods, like Rincon Hill near AT&T park, can only be rented for short-term use.

Only the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector is researching and contacting landlords who have short term rentals. Their investigators are contacting landlords and collecting the current hotel tax of 14%. While landlords are evading Rent Ordinance laws, the only City department that seems to taking any action is the Office of the Treasurer.

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Mary Catherine Wiederhold

Tenant Attorney
1458 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

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