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posted: 4/20/2014 6:21 AM

San Francisco considers ending rental ban

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Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Legislation set to be unveiled in San Francisco would make it legal for city residents to rent out their homes on sites such as Airbnb, but only if they have liability insurance and meet other requirements, a newspaper reported.

Supervisor David Chiu was expected to unveil the legislation on Tuesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1qXNLPc). Short-term rentals are currently banned in San Francisco. Officials in other parts of the country, including New York City, have raised concerns about them as well.

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New York's attorney general has demanded that Airbnb turn over data about New York City residents who have listed on the site as part of an investigation into whether they are breaking a state law barring sublets for fewer than 30 days if occupants are not present.

On its website, Airbnb warns hosts to be aware of the laws in their city, noting that some restrict people's ability to host paying guests for short periods.

Chiu's bill would lift the ban in San Francisco, but also impose regulations. It was applauded by some tenants' groups. Advocates for property owners, however, said it would not address their concern that short-term renters could pose a safety and health risk to other tenants.

Chiu said San Francisco's blanket restriction was clearly not working given that tens of thousands of visitors to the city use sites such as Airbnb.

"We believe a different approach is necessary to create a distinction between reasonable behavior and bad behavior ...," he said. "And on the other hand, (we support) the idea that working families, students and residents trying to make rent might be able to slightly supplement their income if they happen to go out of town for a weekend or go on vacation during summer break or visit family during the holidays."

In multiunit buildings, Chiu's proposal would only allow short-term rentals at apartments where someone lives 75 percent of the year. The restriction would ban a unit from becoming a full-time vacation rental, the Chronicle reported.

People renting out their places would also have to register with the city every two years. The legislation would not override lease agreements, though it would make it harder for landlords to evict tenants who rent out their units in violation of their lease, the Chronicle reported.

San Francisco-based Airbnb said in a statement that it was reviewing the proposal and looked forward to working with policymakers. Airbnb recently agreed to pay San Francisco's 14 percent hotel tax, addressing at least one concern of critics who say the company is flouting regulations.

"This legislative proposal acknowledges what our community already knows: San Franciscans should be able to share the home in which they live," the company said.

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