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Airbnb starts cracking down on illegal hosts in San Francisco

The home-sharing site says it's acting on an earlier promise to keep "unwelcome commercial operators" from using the site in violation of law in its home town.

Supporters of Airbnb in San Francisco helped protect the company against restrictive short-term rental rules.
DUCEPT Pascal/Hemis/Corbis

A warning to those San Franciscans who've gotten into the illegal hotel business by offering short-term rentals on more than one home: Airbnb is after you.

The home-sharing site on Saturday said it's investigating hosts in the city with multiple listings and plans to give "unwelcome commercial operators" the boot.

The company, also based in San Francisco, released data showing the number of hosts with multiple listings in violation of the city's law restricting vacation rentals to permanent residents offering their own home. Excluded from the law are licensed hotels or rentals of more than 30 days, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which first published the Airbnb data.

Airbnb is targeting 288 hosts for possible expulsion. They control 671 listings, about 7 percent of all San Francisco listings. But they made up 17 percent of the revenue brought in by San Francisco hosts between March 2015 and March 2016.

The crackdown follows years of criticism from locals in San Francisco and beyond who charge that Airbnb is contributing to tighter housing markets, with landlords taking rental units off the market to capitalize on short-term rentals instead. It also makes good on a community compact Airbnb issued in November vowing, among other things, to prevent people from listing properties other than permanent residences.

Also in November, voters in San Francisco, one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, rejected a proposition that would have imposed restrictions on how many days homeowners could rent their homes. Airbnb spent more than $8 million on a campaign to defeat the measure, angering many with some of the messages it used.

Airbnb said it's already been purging illegal listings in San Francisco: almost 100 in January 2016, 92 in June 2015 and 26 in September 2015.

"We know we have more work to do and this effort is just a first step of their single listing," the company said in a blog. "Land use, housing and real estate policies and challenges in San Francisco are unique. This new approach is specifically designed for San Francisco and we will continually look at this program to make sure it's working the way we intend."


Some of the standout data in Airbnb's report about San Francisco's rentals.

Airbnb/Screenshot by CNET