Airbnb Fights|California Regulation


     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A bill requiring home-sharing platforms like Airbnb to provide local governments with user information is moving forward in the California Senate, but not without a fight from Airbnb.
      Senate Bill 593 would compel platforms to disclose hosts’ rental addresses, how long guests stay and how much they pay, to cities and counties where home-sharing is legal.
     The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday approved the bill by state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and sent it to a second committee.
     Several Airbnb hosts from around the state attended the Transportation Committee hearing to oppose the bill.
     “What we do not need is another layer of regulation,” said one host, who told the committee he used the rental company to make money for his retirement.
     Privacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Consumer Watch Dog expressed concern about the privacy implications of the government’s collecting information from a company.
     McGuire responded that the bill simply “enforces the local laws that are on the books.”
     He said hosts who pay taxes on their rentals are already providing personal information to the IRS.
     In a statement on his website, McGuire said: “Multibillion-dollar corporations need to do their part, follow local laws, and share in the prosperity of local communities.”
     Regulators at the municipal level are also trying to figure out how to regulate home-sharing platforms.
     Some San Francisco city supervisors are looking for ways to strengthen the so-called “Airbnb law,” which made short-term rentals in the city legal in February.
     At a Board of Supervisors meeting in April, Supervisor Mark Farrell, along with Mayor Ed Lee, proposed legislation that would limit rentals to 120 days a year.
     Currently hosts can rent homes for 90 days if the host is not present, or an unlimited number of days if the host is present.
     Farrell’s legislation would also create a special office for short-term rental administration and enforcement, and would expand the area for neighbors to complain about violations.
     The proposition rivals a similar attempt introduced by Supervisor David Campos to toughen the law in March. His proposition would cap rentals at 90 days per year, require hosting platforms like Airbnb to provide information to the city about their rentals, and slap a fine of up to $1,000 a day on platforms that list unregistered residences.
     The city’s attempts to amend the law followed criticism that enforcement is too difficult and full of loopholes. Critics also worry that the law could affect the city’s highly sought, but severely limited, housing stock.
     Airbnb has set up a website to battle the proposed state legislation, at airbnbca.org, encouraging supporters to enter their names and addresses to email their state senators.
     The website states: “When Californians open their homes to travelers, everyone benefits. We want to work with cities on common sense rules that allow people to share the home in which they live. Help us ensure the California State Legislature does not pass legislation that would make it more difficult for Californians to share their homes and pay the bills.”
     On April 19, the company sent an email blast to business owners in San Francisco to show how their services have helped the local economy.
     The email contained information from a report commissioned by the company, which found that Airbnb contributed $469 million to the city’s economy last year and that the average host earned $13,000 per year, some of which was funneled back into local businesses.
     “We’re proud Airbnb’s community is helping businesses like yours and making this city a little more affordable,” the email said.
     Contact Arvin Temkar at sanfran@courthousenews.com

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