Wild house parties are certainly not in the interests of short-term rental platforms because of the brand hits and potential liability. Airbnb's limited steps won't end the problem, but it may reduce the volume — in more ways than one.
In an attempt to expand its crackdown on house parties, Airbnb banned people in the United States 25 years old and younger with poor host reviews from booking whole homes in the guests’ neighborhoods.
Under the new rules announced Thursday, prospective U.S. guests younger than 25 and with fewer than three positive Airbnb host reviews cannot book a whole home “close to where they live.” They can still book any type of property — vacation rentals, apartments, or hotels outside their local area.
Under the Airbnb system, guests can review hosts and hosts can review guests.
In addition, guests younger than age 25 who have three positive reviews, and no negative critiques, can still book entire homes in their local areas.
Following house party-related fatalities in California last Halloween, Airbnb implemented in the U.S. a hotline for local authorities to report big parties, a support line for neighbors, and manual reviews of potentially troublesome bookings.
Airbnb tested a ban that’s similar to the one announced Thursday in Canada earlier this year, and the company said in the interim it has seen a “meaningful” drop in house parties in that country. An Airbnb spokesperson declined to release any specific data on the reduction.
There are obvious holes in the policies as many people 25 years and older are potential house party transgressors, and the ban doesn’t inhibit wild, loud parties in apartments and hotels booked through Airbnb.
“On house parties for those over 25, you may recall that in November Brian (CEO Brian Chesky) also announced High Risk Review, whereas we tripled our technological and operational investment in screening of high-risk reservations to cover the United States, Canada, and Mexico by the end of 2019,” a spokesperson said. “A major objective of this product is also stopping unauthorized parties (by people of any age) before they start. That technology is being continually improved and we are looking at where next to expand the technology outside of North America.”
Ryan Southard of Little Owl Cabin near Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington, dismissed Airbnb’s new house party measures as “a token or symbolic measure … if not a topic changer.”
Southard said the house party problem is not simply an age issue, and that an additional quandary is that when a house party does occur then Airbnb makes it difficult to tap into guests’ deposits to get reimbursed for extra cleaning and other costs.
“It’s become virtually impossible to touch deposit money anymore, and the process of trying is more time, frustration and brain damage than it’s worth,” Southard said.
Nor is the problem limited to Airbnb; there are plenty of house parties that are undoubtedly facilitated through bookings on Vrbo, Sonder, Vacasa, Booking.com, Tripadvisor, and many others platforms.
“We’ve had a ‘no party policy’ as part of our Terms of Service for quite some time,” said Sonder spokesman Mason Harrison. “We already use Noiseaware technology in units to monitor decibel levels in the event they exceed what is acceptable.”
Harrison said Sonder’s two-night minimum for “local last-minute bookings” are a nothing house party inhibitor.
“Further, we have local teams on the ground in every market, and contract with professional security services, to deal with any issues that might arise,” he said.
Note: This story has been updated to include more comments about Airbnb’s house party policies.
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Photo credit: Airbnb began its crackdown of party houses in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2019. The company took steps to limit house party bookings on July 2, 2020 from certain guests younger than 25 when it comes to whole homes in their neighborhoods. Martin Jernberg / Unsplash