San Francisco’s Registration Process: Frequently Asked Questions
In April 2017 Airbnb reached an agreement with the City of San Francisco that will make it easier for hosts to comply with the city’s short-term rental laws.
On September 6, 2017, Airbnb will launch a Pass-Through Registration (PTR) system that allows hosts to apply for a Short-Term Residential Rental Certificate and Business Registration Certificate directly from our website.
The following section provides answers to frequently asked questions about the agreement and implementation process.
What is registration?
Registration is the 2-step process by which a host registers as a business entity with the Treasurer & Tax Collector (Business Registration), and then registers their listing(s) with the City of San Francisco’s Office of Short-Term Rentals (Short-Term Rental Registration). More information on registration is available here.
Who needs to register?
Under existing law, anyone in the City of San Francisco listing a residential property for short-term rent (less than 30 nights at a time) on a hosting platform like Airbnb must register.
What if I’m listing a licensed hotel, bed & breakfast, or timeshare?
If you are listing a licensed hotel, bed & breakfast, or timeshare, you do not need to register, but you do need to follow the steps below.
If you are creating a new listing from scratch, the first registration screen you will encounter is the “Is this your primary residence?” screen. Please select “No” on this screen and click “Next”. Once you have completed the rest of the List Your Space steps, you will be taken to the City Registration overview page, where you will be asked to register your listing.
From here, please follow the steps outlined below (see What if I’ve already Registered) and enter your Business Registration Number (also referred to as your Business Account Number or BAN) into the “License or registration number” field. If you do not have a Business Registration Number, please type “Licensed Hotel/B&B” or “Timeshare” into the field. Your entry, along with your listing ID and zip code will be remitted to the City for verification. The City will review this within 1-2 months, but you can continue to host in the meantime.
How do I register?
If you have an existing listing in San Francisco:
- Go to Manage listings on airbnb.com
- Click the San Francisco listing you'd like to register
- At the top of the page, click Registration
- Follow the instructions, then click Submit
If you're creating a new listing in San Francisco:
- Create a new listing on Airbnb.
- If your minimum number of nights is less than 30, you'll automatically be guided through the registration process. You'll need to finish this process before you can publish your listing.
What if I’ve already registered?
If you’ve already registered with the City, add your registration number and expiration date to your listing. To update your listing:
- Go to Manage listings on airbnb.com
- Click the San Francisco listing you'd like to register
- At the top of the page, click Registration
- Click I already have a registration number
- Fill in all of the required info, then click Submit
How much does it cost to register?
As part of registration you will need to pay $91 for a Business Registration Certificate through the City of San Francisco. If you use this certificate exclusively for running a short-term rental business, you might be eligible for a reimbursement of this fee. See here for more details. Once you have obtained this, you will need to then pay your $450 Short-Term Residential Rental Certificate registration fee to the City. This fee is non-refundable, even if your application is denied. Once you commence hosting, you will be responsible for paying federal income tax on your earnings as a host, and Airbnb will collect and remit Transient Occupancy Taxes from your guests directly to the City. Lastly, as a newly registered business, you might be required to pay Business Personal Property taxes on the items in your apartment that are used to facilitate your hosting business. Finally, if your application for a Short-Term Residential Rental Certificate is rejected the Business Registration Certificate will continue to be in place unless you take steps to cancel it which you can do here.
How often do I need to renew my registration?
Hosts must renew their registration every two years (provided the registered unit remains in good standing). This requirement does not change under the new registration system.
What information will I be required to submit as part of my registration application?
When hosts apply for registration with the Office of Short-Term Rentals, they’re required to provide basic personal information: their full name, email address, phone number and how long they have resided at their listing address.
Hosts must also provide basic listing information: the address, number of bedrooms, whether they rent or own, monthly rent (if applicable) and intended use (entire space, private room or shared space).
Finally, hosts must provide three pieces of documentation: a Business Registration number, proof of payment for your short-term rental application, and proof of address, which requires showing a photo ID and an additional verification document, such as a city-issued utility bill (e.g. PG&E, SFPUC, Recology), vehicle insurance, proof of voter registration or homeowner’s tax exemption form. As part of our online registration system, host applicants will be allowed to upload images of their identifying documents.
What is a Business Registration Certificate?
A Business Registration Certificate is a legal document, issued by the San Francisco Treasurer’s Office. This document officially establishes a business in San Francisco. It can be obtained immediately by visiting the San Francisco Treasurer’s website. Hosts can access the Treasurer’s website through the new registration system. Hosts will be required to provide their business registration number during the registration application process. Keep in mind that registering as a business will have additional tax implications, that are outlined here.
What is a Short-Term Rental Residential Rental Certificate?
The City of San Francisco law requires that hosts obtain a short-term residential rental certificate from the City of San Francisco’s Planning Department. Hosts will be granted this certificate this if their registration application is approved by the city.
What documents are required for proof of address?
Hosts are required to provide two documents that prove that their listing address is their primary residence: a photo ID (driver’s license, state ID card, or passport) and an additional verification document, such as a city-issued utility bill, vehicle insurance or proof of voter registration (more information can be found on the City’s website here). If their photo ID does not include the listing address they’re registering, hosts need to provide an additional proof of address document (i.e., your utility bill and voter registration document). As part of the online registration system, the City will accept images or scans of these documents. Hosts will provide these within the online application form.
What happens after I submit my registration application to the City?
Once a host submits their registration application, they can continue to list and book their space as usual until the City gets back to them with a registration number or more information.
After the City approves or denies a registration, it will directly inform the host and Airbnb of its decision. If the City approves a registration application, it will provide the host and Airbnb with a registration number to include as part of the host’s published listing.
If the City denies a registration application, Airbnb will take down the listing from its website and cancel future reservations.
How do I know if my application has been approved?
The City of San Francisco will notify hosts via email and postal mail and provide them with a registration number. Airbnb will automatically add your registration number to your listing.
What happens once my registration is approved?
After the City of San Francisco approves a registration application, hosts can list their property on Airbnb as long as they continue to follow the laws and keep their registration current. This link provides information about how to remain compliant with the City’s home-sharing laws.
What happens if my registration is rejected?
The City will notify hosts by letter if their registration application is rejected and communicate the reason(s) for rejection. If your application is rejected, Airbnb is obligated by the City to remove your listing and cancel all upcoming reservations that are scheduled to commence 7 or more days from the date of rejection. For example, if your listing was rejected on October 1, 2017 we would unlist your listing and cancel any reservations scheduled to begin on October 8, 2017 or after. These guests will receive a full refund for their trip, and in many cases will receive complimentary re-booking services from Airbnb to help them find a new place to stay. If your application is rejected, the Business Registration Certificate will continue to be in place unless you take steps to cancel it, which you can do here.
According to the Office of Short-Term Rentals (OSTR) website, if your application for a certificate is rejected, or if a previously-issued certificate has been 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 or revocation. For further information, please review these procedures.
For what reasons can the city reject my registration?
The City can reject a registration if it determines that a listing does not comply with Chapter 41A of the San Francisco Administrative Code.
If I have multiple listings at the same address (e.g. 2 private rooms, both at 888 Brannan St., Unit 4) do I need to register all of them individually?
No. You only need to register once per unique address (including unit/apt). For the other listings you can enter “City registration pending”, and the date you applied as the expiration date. Remember to update this once the city approves or rejects your master application. If you are listing multiple listings at the same address, but at different units/apts, you will need to register each one of them separately.
I only host guests for stays of 30 nights or more. Do I still need to register?
No. Long-term stays (defined as 30 nights or more in San Francisco) are not covered under this ordinance. But you will be required to register if you wish to host guests for less than 30 nights. Even if a guest originally books a trip for 31 nights and then makes an alteration that reduces their stay to less than 30 nights, you will need to register.
If I host long-term (generally 30 nights or more), what tenancy laws apply to me?
If you host long-term guests, your guests may establish rights as a tenant under San Francisco law. We encourage you to review the San Francisco rules and regulations before accepting a long-term reservations. You can obtain more information here and from the San Francisco Rent Board.
What if my name is not on my utility bill (e.g. it’s in a spouse’s or roommate’s name)?
If your utility bill is in a spouse or roommate’s name, you will need to upload an additional document linking yourself to that address, such as your vehicle or voter registration cards. Information on what documents are acceptable to the city can be found here.
What types of utility bills are accepted as “proof of address”?
According to the city’s website, your utility bill must be issued from either: SFPUC (water), Recology (trash), or PG&E (electric/gas), and include the payment stub showing the address of the unit you wish to certify. You may only use utility bills as one form of residency confirmation. Cable television, cell phone, or internet provider bills do not qualify. Other documents that are acceptable to the city can be found here.
I heard I can get a refund on my $91 Business Registration if it’s used exclusively for short-term rentals. Is this true?
Yes. According to the City, if a host’s only registered business is for hosting (e.g. they aren’t also a Lyft/Uber driver, a hairdresser, or other small business owner) and the unit is in a building of 4 units or less, they will get a refund. This will be granted automatically if you meet the criteria, so you don’t have to request it.
Do I need to get/request an in-home inspection if I want to register?
No, an inspection is not required.
I have multiple listings in San Francisco, which should I register?
City law allows a host to register their primary residence, defined as the place where they reside at least 275 days per year. So please register your primary residence only. You will not be able to register/list non-primary addresses.
What data specifically will Airbnb be sharing with the City of San Francisco as part of my registration application?
If you apply for a new short-term rental registration number we will be sharing all data you enter as part of your online application (e.g. name, email, listing address, rent or own, etc.). You will have the opportunity to see exactly what we will be remitting, and confirm this information is correct, on the final page of your application. If you indicate that you already have a registration number, we will be remitting the number you entered, as well as the expiration date and zip-code for this number. If you do not wish to share any of this data with the City, you will need to deactivate/remove your listing from Airbnb.
What exactly will the City of San Francisco be sending to my landlord if I am a renter and I try to register?
The city will be sending a letter like this to the owner on record of the address you are trying to register. If you misrepresent that you are an owner when you are actually a renter, the owner on record will still receive a copy of the letter above. Check to make sure it’s permitted in your rental agreement before you apply. Here are some tips to help you discuss the possibility of hosting with your landlord.
How do I close my business if I decide I no longer want to be a host? Who else do I need to notify at the City?
If you would like to stop hosting, please follow these steps to let the City know.
My home/unit is zoned as an RH-1(D) detached residence. Do special rules apply?
According to the Office of Short-Term Rentals (OSTR) website, For properties located in RH-1(D) zoning districts, a neighborhood notification is required. This means that if you live in one of these districts, after you submit a complete application OSTR will send a courtesy notice to all property owners and residential tenants who live within 300 feet of your unit. They will have 45 days to submit comments to the City. Neighborhood input will only affect your application if someone submits sufficient evidence that your unit is not eligible for short-term rentals.
What if my listing is a non-conventional home, like an RV, boat, or tipi? Do special rules apply to me?
Please check the City’s website to confirm if your property type is eligible for short-term rental.
I registered directly with the City of San Francisco and my registration is still pending, but I want to create my listing on Airbnb. How do I do this?
If you registered directly with the City and would like to create your listing in the meantime, please follow the following steps:
- Create your listing in San Francisco
- On the “Your listing was created!” page, click on the “City registration” link
- On the bottom of the “Register your listing with the city” page, click on the “I already have a registration number” button
- Enter “City registration pending” into the “Registration number field”
- Enter the date you applied for your registration number into the “Expiration date” field
- Click “Submit”
NOTE: Airbnb will periodically remit this information to the City for verification.
What exactly is a “primary residence”?
Your primary residence is the place you call home. You are required to reside in your primary residence for more than 275 days a year, or 75% of a pro-rated year. You can only have one primary residence. As part of the registration process, you will be required to provide two forms of documentation (e.g., a driver's license and utility bill) showing that the address you are registering is your primary residence.
What do I need to know if I host on other platforms?
Airbnb is currently the only Qualified Website Company (QWC) for short-term rentals in the City of San Francisco. This means that if you host on Airbnb, your occupancy taxes will automatically be collected from your guests and remitted directly to the City. If you host on other platforms (e.g. HomeAway, VRBO), even just part-time, you will be responsible for calculating, collecting, and remitting these taxes to the City for each reservation you complete.