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SF Law Prohibits Short-Term Rentals Popularized By Airbnb

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) - A woman whose home was recently vandalized by a short-term renter she found through was probably violating city laws that prohibit a residence from being used as a hotel, city officials said.

Any San Francisco property leased for less than 30 days requires permits and is subject to hotel fees and other taxes, city officials said.

"Renting an apartment or a regular dwelling unit out on a short-term basis is a violation of the planning code that would be considered a hotel use," said John Rahaim, director of the San Francisco Planning Department.

Other California cities such as Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and even New York and Paris, have similar prohibitions that property owners who list on Airbnb, Roomarama, Wimdu and similar websites often ignore, sometimes unknowingly.

Rahaim was clear that it is the property owner, not the website that carries the listing, that could be fined as much as $250 a day for operating an unlicensed hotel.

"We go out and talk to the property owner and we make sure that they understand the code," long before any penalties are assessed, he said.

KCBS' Doug Sovern Reports:

Hotel operators have cried foul about what they see as unfair competition from casual innkeepers.

"It's not fair and it really is sometimes kind of a threat to the health and safety of the people that use these facilities," said Joe D'Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association.

In this case, the property owner, whose name has not been released, was also the victim of a crime.

The woman told authorities she came home in June to find her home ransacked and property missing. A person of interest in the case, 19-year-old Faith Clifton of Belmont, is currently in custody on unrelated charges.

Airbnb, which declined to comment for this story, has since apologized to her, and rolled out an insurance program to cover customers for up to $50,000 of damage.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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