On March 29, embedded in a blog post on “New Developments,” Airbnb announced that it would be testing out a new feature called Additional Hosts.

With this new feature, an Airbnb host can add up to three other hosts to a single listing, making it easier for hosts to manage their listings. For now, the new feature is being rolled out to a random sample of about 10 percent of Airbnb hosts around the world.

Here’s how it works: For example, if a married couple is renting out the spare bedroom in their shared house or apartment, both spouses can now be added as hosts for that room listing. Without the additional hosts feature, only one spouse would be able to be on the listing, and the other spouse would have to log in as the other person to manage the account and listing. The new feature also adds an additional layer of safety and security for both hosts and guests so that when a guest arrives at that particular listing, he or she will recognize both hosts instead of just knowing one, for example.

An Airbnb spokesperson said that the company wants to make sure this new feature helps Airbnb hosts who are sharing their homes with guests — and not to enable those hosts who may be using the platform as more of a commercial business with multiple listings. That’s why only four people, presumably roommates, relatives, friends, or neighbors, can be connected to a single listing as hosts, and those three additional hosts can’t be added to other listings as additional hosts. An individual Airbnb user cannot be added as an additional host for more than one listing.

Host or Agent?

Airbnb also updated its Terms of Service on March 29 and beginning May 19, all existing Airbnb customers will have to review and agree to the new Terms of Service. In its Terms of Service, Airbnb explicitly says hosts cannot serve in the capacity of a rental agent or a listing agent for a third party. The company also wants every host and additional host to certify they are complying with local laws before they list their space.

However, it’s important to note the terms of service do not prevent a host from having more than one listing on Airbnb. While there are registered Airbnb hosts who do have multiple listings on the platform, those hosts cannot appoint the same person to serve as an additional host on multiple listings.

Fending off accusations that Airbnb is increasingly becoming a platform for hosts with multiple listings, or hosts who operate commercially, is something the San Francisco-based company has had to do a lot these days.

On March 24, a new report from Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (a known Airbnb opponent) said that while 14 percent of Phoenix hosts have multiple units, they generated 40 percent of Airbnb’s regional revenue from September 2014 to September 2015, for a total of more than $17 million. Airbnb said it was a “specious study intended to mislead and manipulate.”

In February, however, Airbnb confirmed it removed some 1,500 New York City listings from commercial operators prior to releasing data about its operations in the city. Because those listings were removed, the data presented as a snapshot of Airbnb’s New York City business on Nov. 17 was altered, downplaying the number of hosts with multiple listings. When Airbnb has purged hosts with multiple listings in the past, other hosts have emerged in the following months with their own multiple listings.

In the updated Terms of Service, it is noted that “Airbnb reserves the right, at any time and without prior notice, to remove or disable access to any Listing for any reason, including Listings that Airbnb, in its sole discretion, considers to be objectionable for any reason …”

As things stand, it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many hosts on Airbnb have multiple listings or might be using the platform for commercial purposes; the data that’s available just doesn’t paint a clear enough picture.

Tags: airbnb
Photo Credit: The new Additional Hosts feature that Airbnb is testing out makes it easier for couples, roommates, relatives, and friends to manage a single listing. Airbnb