Short-Term Residential Rental Starter Kit

Looking to rent out your home or spare bedroom to visitors occasionally? Short-term rental of your home can bring in extra income and assists with introducing new visitors and tourists to our neighborhood small businesses. Find out how to stay compliant with the City’s rules and regulations.

What’s inside

Guides (1)

Guide - Short-Term Rental

The Short-Term Residential Rental Starter Kit serves as a handy reference guide to help you become a certified host so you may legally rent out all or a portion of your residence. You can also download this guide here.

Related Documents (1)

For Hosts that already have a BAN

This is supplemental information for hosts of short-term rentals who already have a Business Account Number (BAN).

Permits (4)

Business Registration Certificate

The basic city business registration required for all businesses who wish to operate in San Francisco.

Certificate of Authority (COA) to Collect Transient Occupancy Tax

Hotels in San Francisco are required to obtain a Certificate of Authority (COA) to collect Transient Occupancy taxes. The COA authorizes the operator to collect the tax.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An EIN is also known as an Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number. It is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A business needs an EIN to pay employees and to file business tax returns. An EIN does not expire and is unique to your business – once an EIN has been given to an entity, it will never be issued again.

Short-Term Residential Rental Application

Register your apartment, condo, or home to rent to visitors for short periods.

Short-Term Residential Rental Guide & Starter Kit

The Short-Term Residential Rental Starter Kit serves as a handy reference guide to help you become a certified host so you may legally rent out all or a portion of your residence. You can also download this guide here.

Understanding the Basics

Overview

Renting all or part of your home (residence) for stays of less than 30 nights in San Francisco, is considered a “short-term rental” and requires approval from both the Office of Short-Term Rentals and the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector.

Earning income from short-term residential rentals is considered a business. Therefore you need to register your business and may also owe taxes. Obtaining a Business Registration Certificate and paying applicable taxes through the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office is the first step in completing your required certification with the Office of Short-Term Rentals.

Even if you use a hosting website that handles the hotel taxes ( also known as transient occupancy taxes) for you, registration is still required with both offices. In addition, local business personal property taxes may also apply.

 

 1. Register with the Office of Treasurer & Tax Collector 

+

2. Register with the Office of Short-Term Rentals 

= 

3. Approved to host short-term rentals & comply with hosting rules

 

The rules are explained in depth further below, but here are the basics:

- You may only host short-term rentals if you live in San Francisco (permanent resident), and only at your own home (“dwelling unit”). 

- If you own a multi-unit building, you may only host short-term rentals in your own individual dwelling unit.

- There is a 90-day limit per year on “un-hosted rentals”, which means renting out your home to guests when you are not at the home overnight. 

- There is no limit on the number of nights per year that you may offer “hosted rentals” (when you are home overnight at the same time as your guests). 

- The requirement to be certified with the Office of Short-Term Rentals does NOT apply if you are only renting out your home for stays of 30 or more consecutive nights (i.e. 30 night minimum stays for your guests).

Important Information
Hosting short-term rentals without a registration number from both the Office of the Treasurer  & Tax Collector, and the Office of Short-Term Rentals can result in significant fines and other penalties.

If you a see an underlined (example) term or word that you would like further explained please click on the term or review the glossary section at the bottom of "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions" specifically named as "Definition of Common Terms".

Our goal is to help folks navigate the process and host responsibly. We recognize that for many hosts this is their first time operating a business. So if an issue is not clear, please check out the FAQ section below or feel free to call or e-mail the Office of Short-Term Rentals at (415) 575-9179 or  shorttermrentals@sfgov.org. If you have any questions specific to the business registration process or taxes, please refer to the Treasurer & Tax Collector’s website, or call 311. 

Learn more about the rules & requirements

Eligibility Requirements

In order to host short-term residential rentals in your home (dwelling unit) you must meet all of the following conditions, based on Chapter 41 of the City’s Administrative Code:

- Be the permanent resident (owner or tenant) of the dwelling unit that you wish to offer for short-term rental. This means you must live in that actual dwelling unit for at least 275 nights of any given calendar year. 

If you are a new resident, you must have resided in this specific dwelling for at least 60 consecutive days prior to your application. 

- If you own/rent a multi-unit building, you may only register the specific residential unit in which you reside.

- Obtain property liability insurance in the amount of no less than $500,000 or provide proof that property liability coverage in an equal or higher amount is being provided by any and all websites (hosting platforms) through which you will rent your unit. Please note that if you are only offering short-term rentals through the Airbnb website, that this requirement does not apply as equivalent coverage is provided. However you are encouraged to discuss property and liability insurance coverage with your insurer.

- Ensure that your dwelling unit is and remains compliant with all Building, Housing, Planning, or other City codes.

- Obtain a business registration certificate from the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. This can usually be obtained for free and online, based on certain eligibility rules. You should complete this step before your application appointment with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. 

- If you are a tenant (renter), condominium owner, or TIC owner, please review "Information for rental tenants, condominium owners, and TIC owners”.

- If your home is located within an RH-1 (D) Zoning District, a special notification requirement applies. 

Ineligible Properties: Certain types of properties are never eligible for short-term rental: 

- Properties located at Treasure Island, Fort Mason, or The Presidio. 

- Income-restricted affordable housing (including Below-Market-Rate (BMR) units and public housing), as well as dormitories and Single-Room-Occupancy (SRO) buildings.

- Group Housing: Group Housing properties are subject to the Planning Code (and other Building and Housing Codes), and are not eligible for registration as a short-term rental under Section 41A of the Administrative Code. Please note that group housing is subject to minimum seven (7) day stays and requires specific approvals from the Planning Department and Department of Building Inspection.

- Buildings subject to Ellis Act eviction after November 1, 2014. 

- Non-residential areas within buildings, such as commercial or industrial spaces.

- Sleeping quarters in most outdoor areas, including treehouses & vehicles (subject to Police Code).

- Detailed list of locations where short-term rentals are not allowed.

Register with the Office of the Treasure & Tax Collector

Obtain a Business Registration Certificate and Sign Up for Appropriate Tax Filing & Payment Schedule

Option 1: I need a first-time business registration

Apply for a Business Registration Certificate online (first-time business registration)

You MAY qualify for a free business registration and can apply online if you meet the following:

- Your only business activity, in San Francisco, is as a short-term residential rental host. 

- You do not have any payroll expenses (you do not have any employees).

- You only receive rental income for one residential structure consisting of fewer than four units; a cooperative housing corporation; or one residential condominium. 

Step 1: Apply online for your business registration certificate.

Step 2 Apply online to declare use of Qualified Website Company and/or Small Operator. Click here in order to qualify as a Small Operator and declare use of a Qualified Website Company (At this time, only Airbnb is a QWC).

If you do not meet the criteria above for the online application, follow the instructions to register your business with the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office.

NOTE! The information you share with the Treasurer and Tax Collector is confidential. 

Important Information
Once you have obtained your business registration certificate from the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector, you will also need to obtain a registration number from the Office of Short-Term Rentals, before you can host short-term rentals.

Option 2: I already have a business registration for a different kind of business in San Francisco

 If you already have another type of business registered in San Francisco with the Office of the Treasurer and the Tax Collector, then use the update account function to add another business (business location). This will prompt you to choose the industry type, which will be “Accommodations.”

Once you add the 2nd business to your account, you will also need to declare your status for how hotel taxes are collected. For example, you may qualify as a Small Operator of short-term rentals and use a qualified website company (e.g. Airbnb). This means you would not be required to file hotel taxes yourself, since it would be handled directly by the website.

- Link to Qualify for “Small Operator” designation to file and pay TOT annually, instead of monthly.

Important Information
Once you have obtained your business registration certificate from the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector, you will also need to obtain a registration number from the Office of Short-Term Rentals, before you can host short-term rentals.

Details on Fulfilling Your Tax Obligations

Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)

Anyone in San Francisco who receives rent for a stay of less than 30 days must collect a 14% tax on the amount that they earn from their guests. This is called the “Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT),” and depending on the amount of rent that you bring in, this tax is due either monthly or annually. 

Annual filing

If you make $40,000 or less from renting out your residence, then you can apply to be a “Small Operator” during the time of your business registration. Small Operators can file their TOT on an annual basis, and DO NOT need a Certificate of Authority. Declare you are a Small Operator to the Treasurer and Tax Collector.

Monthly filing

If you earn more than $40,000 per year from renting out your residence, then you must file your TOT on a monthly basis. To do so, you must obtain a Certificate of Authority in order to have the right to collect the TOT.

Qualified Website Company (QWC)

If you rent out your unit using ONLY a Qualified Website Company (hosting platform that can collect taxes and remit on your behalf), then you do not have to collect and remit the TOT or obtain a Certificate of Authority. 

NOTE
Currently, the only hosting platform that is a Qualified Website Company is Airbnb. If you ONLY list your residence on Airbnb, you do need a business registration certificate, but you do not need to collect TOT or obtain a Certificate of Authority. If you list your residence on Airbnb and other hosting platforms, you must still follow the guidelines above to fulfill your tax obligations on earnings from non-Airbnb hosting platforms.

How to calculate the TOT

The TOT is based on the total amount that a guest pays, including charges designated as “service fees (e.g. cleaning fee)” or “advertising fees.” For example, if a guest is charged $110 plus a $20 “service fee,” the taxable rent is $130. The tax would be 14% of $130, which is $18.20. To collect the TOT, the party that receives the rent payment adds TOT to the rent and collects both at the same time.  In this example, a guest would be charged $110 + $20 + $18.20 = $148.20.  The party receiving payment from the guest must provide a receipt.  The receipt must separately state the amount of TOT collected.

Become Certified by the Office of Short-Term Rentals

Obtaining your required certification from the Office of Short-Term Rentals 

Once you have obtained your business registration certificate from the Treasurer & Tax Collector (see above) you will also need to be certified by the Office of Short-Term Rentals. This step requires an in-person appointment to take in your application that usually takes no more than 15 minutes. You can also stop by during our walk-in periods (see below).

Make appointment

Make an appointment with the Office of Short-Term Rentals to meet with staff and submit your application. Applications must be filed in person by the permanent resident whose name will appear on the certificate. Applications may not be filed by representatives or agents. Drop-ins or dropped off applications will not be accepted, except during walk-in hours noted below. Click here to schedule your appointment online.

Your appointment will be held at 1660 Mission Street, on the fifth floor at station #39. 

If you are having trouble scheduling an appointment or have further questions, please contact us at shorttermrentals@sfgov.org, or at (415) 575-9179. 

If you prefer, you can also visit us during our walk-in hours to submit an application or ask general questions about the rules of the program:

- Every Wednesday afternoon, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM at 1660 Mission Street, 5th Floor (Department of Building Inspection offices, Station 39). 

- First Monday of every month, 5:30PM - 7:30PM, at 1650 Mission Street, 4th Floor (Planning Department offices).

Items you need to bring:

- Application FormComplete the application by downloading it or picking up a copy at the Planning Department's Planning Information Center (PIC), located at the ground floor of 1660 Mission Street. Please fill out the application before your appointment. If you do not know how to answer a question on the application, please ask us.

Business Registration Certificate issued by the San Francisco Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. A receipt of a pending application is sufficient to begin certification with the Office of Short-Term Rentals.

- Government-issued Photo Identification Card 

- Proof of property liability insurance in the amount of no less than $500,000. Some hosting platforms (e.g. Airbnb) provide insurance for hosts that may cover this requirement, which can be skipped. Other hosting platforms do not and a copy of insurance documents will be required. Check with your hosting platforms to determine whether you will need to provide your own property liability insurance.

- Application Fee in the form of either cash (exact change only please) or a check made out to the San Francisco Planning Department for $250.00. This fee is non-refundable.

- ID/Proof of Residency: Please bring your government-issued photo ID, as well as two of the following listed documents to confirm your primary residency at your residential unit. Please note that if your ID is current with the address of the unit you wish to register, you will only need to bring one of the following listed documents. Copies and printouts will not be accepted.

  • 1. Vehicle Registration Card from the California DMV with the address of the unit you wish to certify.
  • 2. Proof of a Homeowner’s Tax Exemption: This is only accepted for a property that is either a single-family dwelling or condominium.
  • 3. Proof of car insurance with the address of the unit you wish to certify.
  • 4. Original utility bill, issued from either: SFPUC (water), Recology (trash), or PG&E (electric/gas), including 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.
  • 5. Voter Registration Card or Certificate with the address of the unit you wish to certify. You may obtain a copy through the San Francisco Department of Elections
  • 6. Other Options: In some instances certain original documents mailed to your current address by State or Federal agencies, such as the franchise tax board, or licensing boards (e.g. medical, real estate, or cosmetology) may also be accepted as one proof of residency. This can include licensing renewals or tax bills. You may redact sensitive information from such documents. 

Tenants/Renter Requirement: If you are a tenant (renter) of your residential unit, you will also need to provide a copy of your lease or rental agreement. Please note that staff will also send a notice to the owner(s) of your unit, informing the owner(s) of your application. We strongly recommend that you review your lease before submitting an application. The certification of your residential unit with the Office of Short-Term Rentals does not override any lease agreements or any other agreement that prohibits subletting or use of your unit as a Short-Term Residential Rental. Please note that lease agreements are private agreements that are not enforced by the City.

Note
If you are a tenant, you may not make more than your monthly rent from your short-term rental fees charged to guests.

Information for residents within properties subject to a Homeowner’s (or Condominium) Association, or tenancy-in-common (TIC) ownership: The certification of your residential unit with the Office of Short-Term Rentals does not override any lease agreements, homeowner’s association bylaws, Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs), or any other agreement, law, or regulations that prohibit subletting or use of your unit as a Short-Term Residential Rental. Please note that lease agreements, homeowners’ association bylaws, and CC&Rs are private agreements that are not enforced by the City and County of San Francisco.

- Corporation Names for Hosts: Hosts must be certified with the Office of Short-Term Rentals in their own name (and not as a business entity such as a corporation). However, hosts may choose to use a different name (e.g. Joe’s Home Rentals) for the business name on the business registration certificate that is issued by the Treasurer & Tax Collector. 

If the property ownership is in the name of a business entity such as a corporation, supporting documentation demonstrating the applicant is an authorized agent/principal is requested. If no such documentation is provided, a courtesy notice will be mailed to the address of the entity that owns the property informing them of your application.

After you’ve applied

You may not advertise or host short-term stays in your home (dwelling unit) until your application is approved by the Office of Short-Term Rentals, and you have received a certificate by mail.

Review

Our staff will review your completed application and let you know if we have any questions. Applications are typically reviewed within 3 to 4 weeks of submittal.  

ELIGIBLE: Receive Your Certificate and Number

If staff determines that your application meets the criteria, then your unit will be added to the Short-Term Residential Rental Registry. You will you receive a “Short-Term Residential Rental” certificate by USPS mail, which contains your assigned certificate number. 

Your certificate will remain valid for two years, as long as you are a responsible host, follow the rules, and complete your quarterly reports on time.

INELIGIBLE

If your application is denied, we will send you a denial notice by USPS mail informing you of the reasons for denial. 

NOTIFICATION WITHIN RH-1 (D) ZONING DISTRICT

If your dwelling unit is located within an RH-1 (D) Zoning District, we will send a letter notifying all property owners, tenants, and neighborhood groups within 300 feet that a short-term rental registration application has been received for your address. This notification requirement does NOT apply in other zoning districts.

The letter only indicates that a short-term rental certificate has been applied for at a given address and the name of the applicant. It does not include other identifying information. Members of the public have 45 days from the date the letter is mailed to raise any concerns regarding whether the applicant/property is eligible, based specifically on the requirements of City’s Administrative Code (Chapter 41A).

To determine if your property is located within the RH-1 (D) Zoning District, you may utilize the Planning Department's Property Information Map.

Requirements for hosts once you are certified

What’s next once your certificate is issued by the Office of Short-Term Rentals?

Display Your Certificate 

Indicate your registration number from the certificate issued by the Office of Short-Term Rentals in the listing's description section of all of your online listings. We also recommend that you place your physical certificate in a location visible to your guests. You do not need to post the “business registration certificate number” from the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector in your home or on your online listings

Report Short-Term Rental Stays Quarterly

You or your managing agent must fill out a Quarterly Report that lists all short-term stays which have occurred during the three-month reporting period. This report can be submitted online (preferred), or mailed to the Office of Short-Term Rentals.

Pay Taxes and Renew your Business Certificate with the Treasurer & Tax Collector

Pay taxes on time and renew your business registration certificate every year with the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. If you use a qualified website company (e.g. Airbnb) then hotel taxes are handled by the website. You are still responsible for any business personal property taxes and ensuring you have a valid business registration certificate at all times. 

Renew your Certificate with the Office of Short-Term Rentals every Two Years.

Once certified, you must continue to comply with the law. Visit the Office of Short-Term Rentals website to read the ongoing requirements for all short-term rental hosts.

For more information visit the Office of Short-Term Rentals website to:

- Learn more about the City’s rules for Short-Term Rentals

- Rules on Hotel Taxes are separtely handled by the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector

- Rules on Business Personal Property Taxes are separately handled by the Assessor-Recorder

- File a complaint about a Short-Term rental

- File your quarterly reports

- Click here to visit the Office of Short - Term Rentals website.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Business Registration & Tax* Obligation Questions (see FAQs further below for items not related to taxes or business registration)

Q: What if I want to include the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), also known as a hotel tax, as part of my rental fee? Am I allowed to do that?

A: The party that receives the rent payment adds the TOT to the rent and collects both at the same time. To calculate TOT, multiply the rent charged by 14%. The party receiving payment from the guest must provide a receipt. The receipt must separately state the amount of TOT collected.

Q: What if I want to add a service fee to the rental price? 

A: If you add a service fee, then it is also subject to TOT. The TOT you collect will be 14% of the guest’s payment plus the service fee. For example, if a guest is charged $110, plus a $20 “service fee,” the taxable rent is $130. The TOT would be 14% of $130, which is $18.20.

Q: What if the website company I am using charges me a fee or commission? How does affect calculation of TOT?

A: Arrangements between a host and a website company do not affect calculation of TOT. TOT is calculated based on the amount paid by the guest. The obligation to submit the full amount of TOT owed applies jointly to the host and the website company.

Following up on the last example, suppose an agreement exists between a website company and a host that the website company will retain 20% of the $110 charge ($22) as a “commission” on the rental transaction, and the website company will also retain the $20 service fee. Therefore, the website company retains $42 and passes along $88 to the host. The rent charged to the guest is still $130, regardless of how the website company and the host have agreed to divide those funds. The TOT is still 14% of $130: $18.20. The full amount of rent received ($130) must be reported on San Francisco TOT filings. When a host uses a website company that does not fulfill this obligation, the host remains responsible for TOT reporting and remitting obligations. In this example, the host would report $130 rent received – not $88 – and would remit $18.20 in TOT.

Q: What if I use a hosting platform that is not a Qualified Website Company to advertise my rental unit?

A: You are responsible for collecting the TOT and remitting it to the Office of Treasurer & Tax Collector.

If you use a non-QWC platform to advertise your unit and the platform collects guests’ payments before forwarding them to you, then both you and the platform are jointly responsible for collecting the TOT and making sure that the Office of Treasurer & Tax Collector receives the TOT paid by the guest. The Office of Treasurer & Tax Collector may collect the TOT plus interest and penalties, from either operator – the website company or the host.

Q: Is there any way for a host who works with a non-QWC to avoid having to deal with collecting TOT, getting a Certificate of Authority, and submitting monthly TOT filings?

A: If you earn $40,000 or less from short-term rental income per year, then you can apply to be a Small Operator. As a Small Operator, you can file and pay the TOT annually by January 31. If you earn more than $40,000 per year, then you must obtain a Certificate of Authority and pay the TOT on a monthly basis.

Q: What if I don’t know how to estimate the amount I will earn at the time that I register as a business? 

A: You should provide your best estimate. If you begin as a Small Operator ($40,000 or less per year) but your rent collected exceeds $40,000, you will need to contact the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office to update your filing and payment schedule, and obtain a Certificate of Authority.

Q: What if I want to change or update the information I submitted on my Business Registration Application or the questions about my tax filing status?

A: Submit a request with the information you need to update.

Q: What if I’ve already registered and paid TOT before Airbnb became a Qualified Website Company?

A: Update your account information so that you stop getting monthly “reminders to file,” and get notified about refunds for registration fee and TOT already submitted.

Q: What information is public?

A: A public list of registered business locations in San Francisco is maintained by the Office of Treasurer-Tax Collector, including business locations that have been sold, closed, or moved out of San Francisco. The following information you submit as part of your business registration application will be available online at data.sfgov.org:

- Business Account Number

- Owner Name

- DBA “Doing Business As” Name

- Location Address(es)

- Business Start/End Date

- Mailing Address

- NAICS code (The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy)

Q: What if I started my short-term rental business a few years ago?

A: The application for a new business registration will ask you for your start date. If you owe TOT for any prior periods, the Treasurer and Tax Collector will contact you with instructions for how to file and pay. 

Q: What if I received a letter from the Treasurer and Tax Collector about hosting, but I am no longer in business?

A: Anyone who operates a business in San Francisco (including hosts) must register. If you have already stopped operation, you may register and submit a close of business form at the same time. If you owe registration fees or TOT for any prior periods, the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office will contact you with instructions for how to file and pay.

Q: What if I declare that I use a QWC exclusively but then decide to list my unit on another platform or rent to a friend?

A: Submit a request with the information you need to update. Make sure to include your Business Account Number and email address in your request. 

Q: What if I receive rent for stays that are 30 days or longer?

A: Rent for stays that are 30 days or longer are not taxable. TOT only applies for rent received for stays that are less than 30 days. You do not need to include stays that are 30 days or longer in any TOT filings or payments. 

*Please note the information provided here is only applicable to local transient occupancy (hotel) taxes and does not include potential State or Federal taxes.  In addition, separate business personal property taxes are administered by the Office of the Assessor-Recorder.

Other Short-Term Rental Questions

Q: What if I want to rent out more than one unit?

A: You can only rent out your residential unit, which is where you live for a minimum of 275 nights per year. If you own multiple properties, you can only rent out the residential unit in which you reside. You may have multiple listings for different rooms within the same residential unit (for example, different bedrooms). 

You can rent out your unit for a maximum of 90 nights per year if you will not be present overnight at the time of your guests’ stay. You can rent out your registered unit for an unlimited number of nights only if you will also be living (staying overnight) in the unit during your guests’ stay.

Please note that hosting more than five (5) separate and unrelated persons/groups in a single-family home is generally not allowed, as it is considered to be an unauthorized change of use to “group housing” (similar to a boardinghouse, hostel, or some “hacker homes”). While “group housing” does exist in some residential neighborhoods, it requires specific approvals from both the Planning Department and Department of Building Inspection. In addition, group housing requires a minimum seven (7) day stay for each guest. 

Q: What if I move and want to rent out my new place?

A: You must notify the Office of Short-Term Rentals, and the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector.  Add a location to your business registration account with the Treasurer and Tax Collector. 

You must have lived in your new unit for a period of 60 consecutive days. Once you have met the minimum residency requirement, you can register your new unit with the Short-Term Rental Registry. You will not have to do anything to take your old unit off the Registry; it will automatically be invalidated when you apply for your new registration, and the old unit will not be eligible for short term rental unless a new occupant reapplies.

Q: What if I no longer want to rent out my residence?  Do I need to file anything to close my business?

A: You must close your business with the Treasurer and Tax Collector. Also notify the Office of Short-Term Rentals, by e-mail with the date you are closing your business, your name and address, at shorttermrentals@sfgov.org. 

Q: Do the registration requirements only apply if you use websites such as VRBO or Airbnb?

A: No, these rules apply whether or not you use a website (also known as a hosting platform), or other services (e.g. online bulletin boards such as Craigslist, word-of-mouth, print advertisements) to offer short-term rentals in San Francisco.

Q: Is there a limit on the number of guests I can have in my home at a given time?

A: Yes, there are two factors to consider. First, based on the type of dwelling, there are certain building/housing code limits that apply. Second, the operation of a short-term rental should not change the character of a dwelling into an unauthorized group housing use, akin to a boarding house or hostel. For example, while a large family may be hosted in a short-term rental (assuming compliance with building/housing codes), renting out the dwelling to more than five (5) separate and distinct persons/families at the same time would generally not be allowed. Please note that any construction, including adding kitchens or stoves requires permitting by the Department of Building Inspection and Planning Department.

Q: Do these rules apply to group housing? What about to existing commercial hotels?

A: No. Group housing is subject to separate approvals, as are hotels.

Q: Can I host short-term rentals in an industrial or retail building?

A: No. However if a portion of the building was already permitted (by Planning Department and the Department of Building Inspection) for residential use, then only that specific area may be eligible.

Q: What happens if my landlord or my homeowners’ (or condominium) association prohibits me from hosting short-term rentals?

A: The City’s rules do not override any private agreements such as leases or association rules. Any enforcement of said rules or private agreements resides with the parties of the agreement (e.g. property owner or association), as the City does not enforce these private agreements. 

Q: Can I host commercial events such as corporate meetings or weddings (as a business) at my home?

A: Generally, hosting of commercial events (renting out your home without overnight stays) is not subject to registration with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Please be aware that this type of activity would likely violate the Planning Code’s rules for allowed uses of dwelling units. For more information contact the Planning Information Center.

Q: Do these rules apply to corporate rentals for 30 days or more to the same guest?

A: No. Rentals for more than 30 nights are not considered a short-term rental and would not require certification with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Ensure that any dwelling units used for corporate rentals are not income-restricted units (e.g. below-market-rate or BMR units). It is also recommended that you review any homeowners’ or condominium association documents that may restrict such activity.

Q: How can I tell if my neighbor has registered with the City to host-short-term rentals?

A: While there is no publicly available centralized list of all approved short-term rental hosts, you can visit the San Francisco Property Information Map website to look up a specific address, then choose the “Planning Apps” tab on the right-hand side of the screen and scroll down to see if there is an approved “STR.” Approved applications are visible, however pending and denied applications are not shown. 

Definitions of Common Terms

Dwelling Unit

A Residential Use defined as a room or suite of two or more rooms that is designed for, or is occupied by, one family doing its own cooking therein and having only one kitchen. A housekeeping room as defined in the Housing Code shall be a Dwelling Unit for purposes of this Code. For the purposes of these rules, a host in a multi-unit building may only offer short-term rentals in their own dwelling unit, and not any other dwelling units or accessory dwelling units (if present) at the property.

Dwelling Unit, Accessory 

Also known as a Secondary Unit, Granny Flat, or In-Law Unit. This is a Dwelling Unit added to an existing residential property. Short-Term Rentals may only be offered in an Accessory Dwelling Unit, if the unit is determined eligible, and the host is a resident of the Accessory Dwelling Unit. A resident of the primary dwelling (“main house”) may not host short-term rentals in the Accessory Dwelling Unit.

Host

Hosts rent a portion or the entire premise of their residential unit to guests for periods of less than 30 nights. Some hosts receive payment through online companies that handle short-term rental bookings and some receive payment directly from the guest. All of these transactions are subject to San Francisco tax laws (and registration with the Office of Short-Term Rentals).

Permanent Resident

A permanent resident can be either a property owner or a tenant. To qualify as a permanent resident, you must live in the unit for at least 275 nights of any given calendar year. Regardless of whether you are a property owner or tenant, you may only register the specific unit in which you reside. If you are a new resident, you must have lived in your unit for at least 60 consecutive days before you can apply to place your unit on the Short-Term Residential Rental Registry.

Short-Term Residential Rental

Rental of all or a portion of your residential unit for periods of less than 30 consecutive nights is considered a Short-Term Residential Rental. If you rent out your unit while you are present, you may do so for an unlimited number of nights per year. If you are not present, the maximum is 90 nights per year.

Business Registration Certificate

All San Francisco businesses must register with the Treasurer and Tax Collector. If you meet certain requirements as a short-term residential rental host, you can apply online for your Business Registration Certificate. Hosts who apply online will receive their temporary Certificate via email within minutes of registering. 

Business Account Number (BAN)

When you receive your Business Registration Certificate, you will be given a BAN that can be used to complete

Business Personal Property Taxes

Under the State Constitution, all property is subject to property tax unless otherwise exempt. In California, numerous types of property are subject to taxation. The most common property subject to taxation is real property, usually thought of as land and improvements or buildings. A second type of taxable property is business personal property, which is property used to operate a business, (a short-term rental is considered a registered business), excluding land and improvements.For example, items such as furnishings, includes furniture, kitchen appliances, and washing/drying machines in rentals are considered business personal property. Business personal property taxes are administered by the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder. For more information, review our Short-Term Rental Business Personal Property Taxation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Short-Term Residential Rental Registry

In addition to the Business Registration Certificate from the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office, qualified hosts must be certified with the Office of Short-Term Rentals. Once you are approved you will be issued a registration number that allows you to legally rent out your residence.

Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT)

San Francisco residents who rent out any portion of their residence must collect a 14% tax on the rental amount that they charge their guests. This tax is paid by the guest, so the guest will be charged 14% on top of your listed rental fee. 

Certificate of Authority (COA)

Hosts must apply for a Certificate of Authority, which gives permission to collect taxes from guests and remit them to the City. All hosts need a COA unless you only use a Qualified Website Company for your listings, or you earn $40,000 or less in rent per year and request to be designated as a Small Operator. 

Small Operators

Hosts who have a Business Registration Certificate can apply online to be designated as a “Small Operator.” Small Operators can file the TOT on an annual basis rather than monthly, and do not need a Certificate of Authority. To qualify, you must make $40,000 or less per year from renting out your residence. 

Qualified Website Company (QWC)

Qualified hosting platforms can collect the TOT on behalf of the host and remit the taxes to the City and County of San Francisco. If you use one of these hosting platforms, then you do not have to obtain a Certificate of Authority or collect and remit TOT for any transactions booked through the site. Currently, Airbnb is the only hosting platform that is a Qualified Website Company.