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Airbnb’s Latest Weapon in Full-Time Landlord Crackdown: E-Mail and Letters

The San Francisco room-rental company will get more involved in its hometown's crackdown on year-round rentals.

Airbnb will start pestering hosts in its hometown of San Francisco to register with the city and report on their rental activity each quarter, executives wrote in two letters to the city obtained by Bloomberg.

While a November ballot initiative to curb year-round rentals in the city failed, Airbnb continues to face pressure. The moves in San Francisco, which aim to show the company is willing to work with the local government, could be a hint of what's to come in other cities around the U.S.

Twice a month, Airbnb will send e-mails and letters to hosts' homes in San Francisco urging them to register, according to a letter by Patrick Hannan, Airbnb's new public policy manager who previously led the campaign against the proposed law in San Francisco. The company will also run advertisements to encourage hosts to register, Hannan wrote. He also said a local organization affiliated with Airbnb, Home Sharers of San Francisco, would host monthly registration information sessions.

In another letter, Airbnb Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky wrote that he's registering his own home before bringing in guests this year. He also said Airbnb will help hosts register with the city. However, the company doesn't verify whether they've registered. "Our team is working directly with city officials to help inform the process," Chesky wrote. "I know the last year was difficult and confusing for many of you. After a long election and a lot of confusion about the rules and regulations, some of you chose to stop hosting."

Airbnb's steps to nudge hosts to register with the city likely won't satisfy the company's critics. When it comes to collecting taxes, the room-rental company has gotten more involved by sending hosts' tax payments directly to many cities. But Airbnb hasn't consistently blocked illegal rentals from its home-sharing platform, leaving cities to chase after law breakers.

Both letters were sent in advance of a city committee meeting on Monday, which planned to discuss whether to give more money to enforcing the rules. A spokesman for Airbnb declined to comment.

Airbnb, previously valued at $25.5 billion, has become a global force and a threat to the hotel industry. The company's ability to navigate regulations around the world remains a key factor in the company's financial success. Airbnb pledged in a November "Community Compact" that it would work to promote "responsible home sharing." In effort to play nice with cities, Airbnb committed to partnering with governments, making more data available, and working to prevent home-sharing from eating into the housing supply in crowded cities. Airbnb also released data in New York City about its home renters.

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