Airbnb closed out 2019 with the announcement that it would be making some changes. And since those rules stand to affect some event owners whose registrants use the home-sharing platform, it’s worth a review.
Hospitality Houses/Party Houses: It’s not an uncommon practice for a renter to invite groups of friends over; in this case, it could be viewed as not much different from the way a sponsor of a sports event might host an event in a hotel, restaurant or other venue. But when renters use a property for the specific purpose of hosting a party, particularly in a residential neighborhood, it does create a problem.
Following a spate of complaints from neighbors about noise, crowds and property damage – and after an argument at one such party led to a shooting in which five people were killed, Airbnb announced it would rule out the rental of any property as a venue for hosting events and that it would comb its database for potential problem rentals. (Airbnb told The New York Times the company would verify its 7 million listings “using a combination of remote technology inspections and verifications from our community.”)
According to The Points Guy, the company has rolled out more manual screenings of what are known as ‘high-risk reservations.’ Airbnb will use risk detection protocols that look at the duration of the stay, the size of the listing and other factors that might suggest the property could be used for a house party.
Timing of rentals and property locations could also be factors that lead to stronger screening at different points during the year. Examples might be homes at beachfront destinations during spring break week or directly after high school graduation.
However, this raises a new concern: Many tournaments are held over spring break and throughout the spring and summer. What about groups of athletes, such as college club team members, who travel to a tournament and who rent a large house together in order to save on expenses – but who don’t have any intention of hosting parties? What about a group of youth sports parents who want to share a larger property in order to cut down on meal and hotel expenses? What about a sports event sponsor who wants to rent a house to host an off-premises dinner or a cocktail party for guests who will not cause trouble? Will these, and other legitimate guests, be turned away as a high risk, or perhaps have to face unexpected screening to prove they’re not planning to host events? It’s certainly possible; Airbnb has not noted exactly how they intend to keep the problem of party houses from recurring, nor from making registering for a larger property too onerous.
Something that might work in sports’ favor is the Airbnb 24/7 Neighborhood Hotline, which launched December 31. The hotline connects callers to Airbnb’s rapid response team, so anyone in a neighborhood with concerns about a listing can call and speak to someone at Airbnb at any time. The hotline — which will have protocols and a training program designed in tandem with former police chiefs — will begin in the U.S. with the intention of eventually being used worldwide.
And Airbnb hosts find there are groups they like to host – meaning those who cause no problems – it’s likely they’ll be invited back, and the house may drop off the list of those with the potential to host parties.
Better Safeguards for Guests: This year will also bring new safeguards for guests. As of mid-December, Airbnb instituted a policy stating that if a guest checks into a listing that doesn’t meet its accuracy standards, Airbnb will rebook the guest at a new listing of equal or greater value or will refund that guest 100 percent.
Better Safeguards for Hosts: In the coming year, guests who are reported by hosts for their failure to act in accordance with house rules (unauthorized guests, unauthorized pets, smoking in non-smoking residences, late check-ins or late check-outs as well as other infractions) are expected to receive formal warnings from Airbnb. Repeat offenses can result in guests’ suspension from using the platform, or from being banned altogether.
Of course, Airbnb is far from the only home share platform used, and the market continues to evolve, with new legislation being enacted by cities to try to crack down on short-term rental listings in a given area.