Campos floats changes to Airbnb legislation after lawsuit

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos Tuesday introduced amendments to short-term rental legislation recently approved by the board that he said would address concerns raised by a lawsuit filed by Airbnb last month.

Airbnb filed suit in federal court on June 27 seeking to block legislation requiring that it and other short-term rental companies verify that hosts are legally registered with The City before allowing them to list properties.

Under the original legislation, introduced by Campos and Supervisor Aaron Peskin, hosting platforms could be fined up to $1,000 a day for every listing of an unregistered property.

The lawsuit alleges that the ordinance violates federal laws protecting internet speech and commerce and prohibiting the government from requiring communications and internet platforms to hand over user information without a subpoena.

In response, Campos Tuesday introduced what he called “modest” amendments, developed in consultation with the city attorney’s office.

The revised legislation would change the focus of enforcement by fining platforms for accepting booking fees from unregistered hosts, rather than for simply allowing them to list properties. In addition, it would authorize The City to issue administrative subpoenas to ensure compliance.

The changes would also make the language of the legislation more precise, make changes in the record keeping requirements and make the registration process easier for hosts, Campos said:

“The reaction by Airbnb and other hosting platforms to our amendments today will speak volumes about their willingness to work reasonably and in good faith for needed regulation-or whether their real motivation is to continue facilitating lawless tourist rentals with impunity.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the proposed amendments would strengthen The City’s litigating position and “hopefully remove the basis for Airbnb’s federal suit.”

Airbnb officials Tuesday evening said they had not seen the proposed amendments or had a chance to review them.

A company spokesperson said in a statement:

“The introduction of today’s amendment acknowledges the legal infirmities with the City’s recent changes to the short term rental law. The fact remains that the ordinance as it stands today violates federal law, and these new proposed amendments still wouldn’t resolve the legal shortcomings that were raised in our complaint. We remain hopeful that we can work together to find solutions that address our shared policy concerns.”

A hearing on Airbnb’s motion for a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit is currently scheduled for Sept. 7.

Short-term listings have been a source of controversy in San Francisco in part due to concerns that they are encouraging hosts to illegally remove units from the rental market for use as full-time hotel rooms, exacerbating the housing crisis. The unregistered rooms can also lead to unpaid hotel taxes, landlord issues and impacts on neighbors, according to critics.

San Francisco began requiring hosts to register and pay hotel taxes last year, but has struggled to enforce that requirement. Only around 25 percent of hosts listing rentals on Airbnb are registered, according to city figures released earlier this year.

Airbnb has agreed to collect city hotel taxes on bookings but has so far resisted requests to share information on hosts with The City or verify registration before listing properties.