FAQs on Short-Term Rentals

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What is a short-term rental?

A short-term residential rental is a rental of all or a portion of your home for periods of less than 30 nights. For a more complete overview, read the Short-Term Rental Ordinance in the San Francisco Administrative Code Chapter 41A.5(g) or contact the Office of Short-Term Rentals (OSTR) by email shorttermrentals@sfgov.org or 628.652.7599.

What kind of short-term rentals are legal?

You must be the permanent resident of the unit you wish to rent

To be considered the Permanent Resident, you must spend at least 275 nights in a calendar year in the Residential Unit where you host short-term rentals. Additionally, to maintain your Permanent Residency, you can only rent your Residential Unit for up to 90 un-hosted nights within a calendar year.  Please note that if you own/rent a multi-unit building, you may only register the specific Residential Unit in which you reside. Also see: "Ineligible Properties" below.

You must be registered with the City of San Francisco as a business and as a short-term rental

You may only offer your Residential Unit for short-term rentals once you have obtained (1) a Business Registration Certificate for your property from the San Francisco Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector; and either (2) then received a certificate from the Office of Short-Term Rentals, and posted the certificate number on all listings advertising a short-term rental; or (3) You have a complete application pending review with the Office of Short-Term Rentals, currently reside in the Residential Unit as a Permanent Resident, and there are no City complaints or enforcement actions pending against the entire property.

For a more detailed discussion, please see overview of the eligibility requirements on the Become a Certified Host page.

What is the application fee and how is it set?

The application fee is $750. The application fee is based on a provision of the City’s short-term rental law which requires application fees to reflect the operating costs for administering the City’s short-term rental program. This program is funded primarily by application fees and enforcement penalties.  It does not include funding from hotel taxes (also known as transient occupancy taxes). The application fee is valid for two years from when the short-term rental application is approved.

How is a hosted guest stay different from an un-hosted guest stay?

A hosted guest stay occurs when you are in the Residential Unit overnight with the guest that you are hosting.  An un-hosted rental occurs when you are not present in your Residential Unit during your guests' stay. Hosts may only conduct 90 un-hosted short-term rentals per calendar year.   Please note that to maintain your Permanent Resident status, you must also live at least 275 nights per calendar year in your Residential Unit.  The renting of your Residential Unit for un-hosted guest stays of 30+ nights is also considered when calculating whether a host lives for at least 275 nights per calendar year in their Residential Unit.

I conduct hosted and un-hosted guest stays. Do I need to have separate listings for each guest stay?

You must provide accurate listing descriptions for your Residential Unit on a Hosting Platform.  If you conduct both hosted and un-hosted stays, you must create separate listings for each short-term rental offering. For example, one listing should be solely dedicated to booking un-hosted stays, and a different listing should be used solely for hosted stays.

I own a multi-unit building and spend time in all the units. Am I eligible for the program?

If you own a multi-unit building, you may only offer for short-term rental one of the Residential Units in the multi-unit building. Although you or your family may live/use/reside in all units, only one may be offered for short-term rental AND you must no longer live in any of the other Residential Units.  

What is a Residential Unit?

The City’s short-term rental regulations define a Residential Unit as a room, or set of rooms, in any building, or portion thereof, which is designed, built, rented, leased, let, or hired out to be occupied for Residential Use.

What obligation does OSTR have to help me resolve my issues with my hosting platform? I am having trouble getting the listing(s) activated.

The OSTR cannot require a hosting platform to activate a listing.  The OSTR also cannot assist in any technical manner, including on how to complete any applications or other forms from a hosting platform, or in getting a listing activated on a hosting platform.  Please note that there is no expiration date on a pending application and the OSTR can only provide a record number (e.g.2023-123456STR) to identify your application and listing.  

I filed my application but did not receive email about how to file – why can't I use the Public Portal to file a report?

Only applications that have been approved are required to file quarterly reports.  If your application is approved, you will receive an email reminding you to file quarterly reports.  If your application is still under review, you do not and cannot file quarterly reports.

I am a landlord and prohibit my tenant from conducting short-term rentals. Why doesn’t the OSTR immediately deny my tenant’s application?

The lease between a landlord and a tenant is a private agreement to which the OSTR is not a party. The OSTR cannot and will not enforce the prohibitions or obligations within a private agreement, including landlord/tenant leases, homeowner’s association by-laws, and Covenant, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The OSTR will send all property owners a mailed notice indicating that an application to conduct short-term rentals has been received. The OSTR will base its application review on the regulations in Administrative Code Chapter 41A.

What properties are ineligible for short-term rentals?

Certain types of properties are never eligible for short-term rental. Below is a list of those property types. Please contact us at shorttermrentals@sfgov.org if you are not sure how your property is classified.

  1. Income-restricted affordable housing, including Below-Market-Rate (BMR) units and public housing.
  2. Student housing, dormitories, and Single-Room-Occupancy (SRO) buildings. However, some SROs are allowed (subject to Department of Building Inspection - Housing Inspection Services regulation) to offer short-term rentals during the "tourist season," which runs from May 1 through September 30. See Section 41.19 of the San Francisco Administrative Code.
  3. Buildings subject to an Ellis Act (No Fault) eviction after November 1, 2014 (even if by a prior property owner).
  4. Legally established Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) or Junior ADUs (JADUs); which are a specific type of "in-law" or "granny flat" approved by the Department of Building Inspection. Only rentals/listings for 30 days or longer, per guest (30-day minimum stay), are allowed in ADUs. Please note that "housekeeping units" are not classified as ADUs; but are considered an entirely separate individual dwelling unit. Short-term rentals hosts must live in the same individual dwelling unit, so they could not reside in the main unit and utilize the "housekeeping units" for short-term rentals (or vice versa).
  5. Sleeping quarters in most shipping containers and outdoor areas, including tipis (teepees) and tree houses.
  6. Sleeping quarters in vans or recreational vehicles (RVs; this may also violate the Police Code). RVs are not considered residential units.
  7. Non-residential areas within buildings, such as living/sleeping quarters added in garages, storage areas, closets, halls, or utility spaces without benefit of permit.
  8. Commercial office/retail or industrial (warehouse) spaces.
  9. Properties located in Treasure Island, Fort Mason, or The Presidio.
  10. Boats or similar watercraft (prohibited by Harbormasters); unless a sole operator at Pier 39 not subject to OSTR registration.
  11. Group Housing properties, which are subject to the Planning Code (plus other Building & Housing Codes), and are not eligible for registration as a short-term rental under Chapter 41A of the Administrative Code.

Rules for Residential Hotels

  • A limited number of Residential Hotels are allowed to offer tourist hotel (short-term) stays in a portion of their rooms, based on a list maintained by the Department of Building Inspection.
  • Those specific rooms may be offered for tourist stays without registering with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Operators may list these tourist-licensed rooms using their business account number (BAN) issued by the Tax Collector, in lieu of a short-term rental registration number.

Rules for Tourist Hotels or Timeshares

  • "Tourist Hotels" (which are different from Residential Hotels), and Timeshare properties (if approved as a timeshare unit by the Department of Building Inspection) are allowed to offer tourist hotel (short-term) stays in all units.
  • Tourist Hotels and Timeshares are not required to register (nor eligible) with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. These properties may still require a (separate) business registration certificate from the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. Operators may list these specific units using their business account number (BAN) issued by the Tax Collector, in lieu of a short-term rental registration number.
  • Timeshare properties include 586-598 Bush Street (even numbers only), 2198 Jackson Street, 1000-1006 Pine Street (even numbers only), 2655 Hyde Street, 3000 Pine Street, 329-333 Fulton Street (odd numbers only), 441 Mason Street, 501 Post Street, 710-730 Powell Street (even numbers only), 690 Market Street, and 900 North Point Street, 726 Sutter Street and 750 Sutter Street.
  • If you run into a problem listing these units on a hosting platform, please contact OSTR staff via e-mail and provide the street address, unit number, if applicable, and listing information.

Rules for Live/Work Units or Artist Live-Work Units

  • You can host short-term rentals in the residential portion of a live/work unit or "artist live/work unit," if you are a permanent resident of that unit and both live in AND host short-term rental guests exclusively in the "live" area of the unit.
  • Short-term rental activity (e.g. sleeping, lounging/resting, or cooking areas) is NOT allowed in the "work" portion of the live/work or artist live/work unit. This is typically noted as such in a Notice of Special Restrictions, or "NSR," recorded on the overall property.
  • You may not reside in the "work" area and use the "live" area of the live/work or artist live/work unit for short-term rentals.
  • Please note that many NSRs require that the resident of an artist live/work unit use the work space for specific types of arts-related business activities and hold a business registration for that specific activity. Short-term rentals would not be considered qualifying business activity.

What are the laws regarding other types of rentals?

Rentals Longer than 30 Nights: Renter Rights and Rent Control
Rentals for more than 30 consecutive nights by the same visitors (Intermediate Length Occupancies, ILO) are not subject to short-term rental regulations or subject to hotel (transient occupancy) taxes. Business personal property taxes may still apply (administered by the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder).

In addition, rental/tenant protections and rent control provisions may apply to stays of 30 days or more. The Office of Short-Term Rentals cannot provide advice on tenant protection or rent control rules and laws. Contact the San Francisco Rent Board for more information.

If rentals are offered for more than 30 nights per guest stay (for those dwelling units not authorized to offer short-term rentals by the Office of Short-Term Rentals), ensure that booking calendars and advertisements for all online listings clearly indicate a 30-day minimum stay.  Please note that the renting of your Residential Unit for un-hosted guest stays of 30+ nights is also considered when calculating whether a host lives for at least 275 nights per calendar year in their Residential Unit.

Renting Your Home for Meetings and Events
Some hosts use online platforms to rent out portions of their home for daytime events such as workspace usage by individuals booking short time segments; or for ceremonies, conferences or meetings. This type of activity generally violates Planning Code rules if the space being used is intended for residential use.

Short-Term Rentals in Commercial and Industrial Buildings
Short-term rentals may only be hosted in areas that are permitted for residential use. For example, short-term rentals may not be held in an institutional, commercial, or industrial building, unless a specific portion of the building is authorized (per the Department of Building Inspection) as a residential dwelling unit. In addition, vehicles (including RVs and Camper Vans) and temporary structures (such as tents, sheds, tree houses, etc.) may not be used for short-term rentals. Short-term rentals can be hosted in residential portions of live-work units only if the host is a Permanent Resident. However, the short-term rental activity is not considered a qualifying business activity in those specific live-work units where a notice of special restrictions (NSR), recorded on the property, requires a business activity/registration for the "work" area. Also see: "Ineligible Properties."
 

What are Intermediate Length Occupancies (ILOs)?

An Intermediate Length Occupancy (ILO) applies to rentals for periods of more than 30 consecutive days but less than 364 days.  If you have any existing unit(s) operating as an ILO, or you are considering an ILO unit, you will need to secure a specific permit. Find more information on our Intermediate Length Occupancy webpage.

What is the basis for the City and County of San Francisco to create regulations for short-term rentals?

The San Francisco Charter references San Francisco’s authority as a charter city to make and enforce all local laws and regulations that are not in conflict with general state laws per the California Constitution, Article XI, Section 7.

Did the primary law on short-term rentals change?

Yes. Prior to 2015, all short-term residential rentals (stays of less than 30 days) were illegal in San Francisco (per the City's Planning Code). This included rentals for the entire home, or just a portion (e.g. private room listings). However, beginning in February 2015, hosts were eligible to register, with the Office of Short-Term Rentals, to host limited short-term rentals in eligible homes where the host also lives at least 275 nights per year. Even if you hold a business registration from the SF Tax Collector and remit hotel taxes, short-term rental hosts are required to register with the Office of Short-Term Rentals.

What if my application is rejected or my certificate is revoked or suspended?

If your application for a certificate is rejected, suspended, or if a previously-issued certificate has been suspended or revoked by the Office of Short-Term Rentals, you may file a written appeal within thirty calendar days from the date of the notice of rejection, suspension, or revocation. Hosts must cancel any pending reservations (for stays of less than 30 days) and remove any online listings (offering stays of less than 30 days), if an application is denied (even if an appeal is filed), or if a certificate is suspended or revoked (even if an appeal is filed). For further information, please review these procedures.

Are Medical, Family, or Financial Hardships or Challenges Grounds for an Exception?

These types of issues are not grounds for an exception from the City’s Short-Term Rental Rules.

If I do not currently live in the Residential Unit, but plan to someday, can I still get a certificate?

No. Hosts must currently reside as Permanent Residents (present at least 275 nights per year) in the Residential Unit.

What happens if I (or my lessee or property manager) ignore an application denial letter/Notice of Ineligible Application and continue to host?

A notice of violation can be issued with penalties of $484 per day, per Residential Unit. Even if you plan to file an appeal, you must cease short-term rental hosting activity. Most hosting platforms (websites) can cancel stays for you and re-book guests if you call and let them know of the extenuating circumstance.

If I switch to monthly (30-day minimum stays), or longer rentals, do I need approval from a City Agency?

There are specific rules that apply and are outlined on the Intermediate Length Occupancy Rentals page. Please note that the Office of Short-Term Rentals cannot provide advice on (long-term) rental laws.

I have a separate Residential Unit at the same property where I live - what are my options?

The application denial/Notice of Ineligible Application was due to my offering short-term rentals in a separate Residential Unit at the same property where I live. However, my tax bill and/or real estate appraisal shows the property as a single-family home; and does not mention multiple Residential Units/dwelling units. Is that grounds for an exception? 
While tax bills, zoning district designations, or appraisals may list a property as a single-family home, the actual layout of the space (e.g., presence of semi-separate living spaces with full bathrooms [toilet and shower/bath], kitchen sink and kitchen counters); and/or certain City records (e.g., 3-R Reports, prior building permits [especially those categorized as “Alterations WITH Plans”], and historic records) may demonstrate the presence of multiple Residential Units at the property.

If there are multiple Residential Units/dwelling units at the property, a registered host may only host short-term rentals on a LIMITED basis (e.g., no more than 90 cumulative nights of whole-unit rentals per year) in the same individual Residential Unit where they also reside at least 275 nights per year.

Can I remove the second Residential Unit/dwelling unit and turn the home/property into just one Residential Unit/dwelling unit; with short-term rentals offered downstairs? 
The removal of dwelling units requires affirmative approval from both the Department of Building Inspection and Planning Department and is typically discouraged by City policies. Hosts should not add or remove elements such as bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen sinks, kitchen counters, or stoves without approval from both the Department of Building Inspection and Planning Department.
 

Is there an exception from the City’s short-term rental rules for properties in the Coastal Zone?

No. In addition, the majority of residential neighborhoods (generally all areas east of 46th Avenue) in San Francisco fall outside the coastal zone.

Platform compliance

San Francisco’s Short-Term Rental Ordinance (Administrative Code Chapter 41A) includes certain requirements for hosting platforms offering short-term rental bookings in San Francisco. Specifically, platforms must:

  • Verify that any home offered for short-term rental is lawfully registered with OSTR before the platform may provide, or collect a fee for, booking services for that unit. This registration requirement does not apply to units specifically approved by the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) as timeshare units or tourist hotels ("residential hotels" are subject to different DBI rules that vary by property).
  • Submit a monthly affidavit to OSTR affirming that they have exercised reasonable care to verify that hosts utilizing their service are lawfully registered with OSTR.
  • Maintain business records for no less than the prior three years for each of their hosts and short-term rental transactions, and provide this information to OSTR upon request.

Please refer to the summary letter and Administrative Guidelines below for further instructions. If platforms fail to comply with these requirements, they may be subject to enforcement action and penalties.

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