Airbnb looks to be cleaning up some overhangs before its anticipated initial public offering, including being fairly aggressive about promoting its crackdown on wayward house parties in its rentals. In case investors ask about the issue, Airbnb has an answer.
In the run-up to — and in the five days since — filing its paperwork to become a public company, Airbnb has publicized its lack of tolerance for house parties and events in its rentals.
In the latest twist, the company announced Monday that it suspended or removed more than 50 listings in Los Angeles County, California, that were the subject of complaints or allegedly violated Airbnb’s policies on house parties or events. The company conducted a similar blitz in Arizona last month.
Clearly no would-be public company answering to shareholders, nor even a private one, would want a repetition of the the Halloween 2019 house party shooting in one of its rentals in the Hollywood Hills area of California that saw five people die.
It’s certain that regulators in various jurisdictions focus on any instances of Airbnb being less than a good neighbor so the company would like to clear up as many of these community flashpoint and regulatory headaches as possible while investors consider getting in on the potential stock market action.
Since the October calamity, Airbnb has taken a series of steps to address the issue, including implementing a global ban on house parties and events last week. Under current rules, large houses can have a 16-guest maximum, and guests under 25 can’t rent locally unless they have at least three positive reviews.
Although Airbnb has banned events in its rentals, it is mulling creating an “exception process for specialty and traditional hospitality venues (i.e. boutique hotels),” the company stated. It may also take legal action against guests who violate Airbnb’s house party rules.
In the short-term rental arena, rowdy house parties are certainly not unique to Airbnb, but an argument can be made that it has a more acute problem than many peers because its guest demographic may skew younger.
Amy Hinote, founder of VRM Intel, a news site for vacation rental managers, said that in addition to its younger clientele, Airbnb is prone to the house party problem because many hosts, and Airbnb’s own team, have “very little experience.”
“So every time they come up against an issue, they treat it like it is brand new,” Hinote said.
Property management companies, Hinote claimed, won’t rent to guests younger than 25, and they collect information about every rental guest during potentially problematic periods such as Spring Break or festivals.
Hinote said property managers informed Airbnb year ago that it needed to create website filters to avoid renting to people under 25. “If Airbnb had truly listened to their reasoning, it might have understood that house parties can be a major problem and strategies are not in place to deal with them,” she said.
Vrbo Has a Different Guest Demographic
Expedia Group’s Vrbo stated that “the overwhelming majority of Vrbo travelers are families taking a vacation together,” so the implication is that house parties are not as acute an issue as for Airbnb.
Vrbo bans guests who conduct unauthorized house parties and hosts or managers who look the other way. It also bans same-day bookings, and provides an enrollment option for NoiseAware, which has noise detectors and updates owners or managers when decibel levels exceed permissible limits.
Booking.com and VRBO Are quieter
Two already public companies, Expedia Group’s Vrbo and Booking Holdings’ Booking.com, haven’t made recent announcements about house party crackdowns.
When queried about the issue, Booking Holdings spokesperson Leslie Cafferty said, “Safety is always a priority and we provide support for partners to make it easier to set accommodation guidelines for guests, from limiting occupancy to align with local gathering mandates to setting house rules, including selecting the policy that does not allow parties.”
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Photo credit: The Hollywood Hills area of California was the site of a tragic shooting at a house party in an Airbnb rental on October 31, 2019. Airbnb has taken several steps to limit or ban house parties in the interim. BrianKinney / Adobe