Letting somebody sleep on your couch can get you evicted from your apartment in San Francisco.
Residents of the city by the bay who can barely afford average rents of $3,350 a month are facing fines and eviction for using the website airbnb.com to rent their couches or spare rooms to tourists.
“Using an apartment for short-term rentals is a crime in San Francisco,” attorney Edward Singer told The San Francisco Chronicle.
Singer arranged the eviction of Jeffrey Katz, a special education teacher who used Airbnb.com to help cover his rent. “It’s obviously not the same moral culpability as running a house of prostitution or manufacturing methamphetamines, but any illegal use is grounds for eviction.”
Katz found an eviction notice on his apartment door because he did not have a conditional use permit which would allow him to rent out his apartment. He was one of a number of San Francisco residents who discovered that it is illegal for most of the city’s residents to take in short-term guests. The Chronicle reported that even people who take in guests for free can be prosecuted under the law.
Middle Class Getting Evicted
“If the eviction goes through, I will have to move out of the city,” Katz said. He is one of many residents who can only afford to live in San Francisco because he was able to rent out his couch on Airbnb.com. “That would break my heart.”
San Francisco now has the highest rents in the nation and many working class and middle class residents are being pushed out of the city. CNN Money reported that landlords in the city are regularly evicting tenants so they can rent apartments to technology workers for more money.
The highest rents in the city are those near bus routes to San Jose, where technology giants like Google and Apple are headquartered. Many rentals are now being converted into high priced condos.
Websites Didn’t Warn Users of Possible Evictions
“You are illegally using the premises as a tourist or transient unit,” the notice on Katz’s door said. Katz didn’t realize that he was violating the law until he got the eviction notice. Katz discovered that airbnb.com, which was profiting from his rental, wasn’t willing to help him.
“It’s not like these people are scofflaws,” Katz’s attorney, Joe Tobener, said. “They thought it was OK to rent his place on Airbnb because the company didn’t tell them otherwise. Airbnb should be defending these tenants, or they should disclose to every person who rents in San Francisco that (short-term rentals are illegal) and tenants are being evicted.”
A San Francisco resident can be evicted for hosting guests once, the Institute for Justice reported. Two other San Francisco residents, Lisa Weitekamp and Chad Selph, received an eviction notice for hosting a guest only once.
Fined $30,000 for Renting Out Apartment
San Francisco is not the only city where people are facing fines and being evicted for renting out rooms through Airbnb. New York City resident Nigel Warren was fined $30,000 for renting out his apartment for $100 a night.
“I rented out my place for a few days and I made $300,” Warren told National Public Radio. “And that was money that I was basically just using to help cover the rent while I was away. I thought, great, this will chip in.”
Warren’s fine has since been reduced to $2,400, but it still hurts the 30-year-old web designer. The Institute for Justice reported that there are similar fines in place in New Orleans.
Such short term rentals are a growing business; the Institute for Justice reported that Airbnb.com posted 30,000 rentals in New York City alone. The main opposition to such rentals comes from hotel owners.
Should people be able to rent out their apartments and homes in cities? Let us know in the comments section below.