Skift Take

The party house problem is a persistent one in the short-term rental industry. The more industrywide collaboration the better.

As they vowed to do six months ago when they announced a partnership, competitors Airbnb and Vrbo began sharing information about chronic party house listings in the U.S., and invited other platforms to join the effort.

Their joint announcement said this pilot program to actively share information about party houses is under way “in an effort to address chronic offenders.” Sharing such information can be useful because hosts often list their properties on both platforms.

The information-sharing began this week, according to an Expedia Group spokesperson, who added “once that data is shared, it remains up to each company to decide what action to take with respect to the listing on their own platform.”

The communications between the companies for now centers on party house listings, and thereby hosts and not guests, although an Expedia Group spokesperson said “we will assess any potential changes to the program as we generate insight and learnings from the pilot.”

The rivals didn’t release any numbers on the quantity of egregious listings they’ve identified or how many are common to both platforms. By all accounts, including anecdotal information from hosts and industry officials, Airbnb seems to have a more serious party house problem than does Vrbo.

One of the most notorious incidents occurred on October 31, 2019 when a Halloween “mansion party,” booked through Airbnb in Orinda, California, led to the deaths of five people in a shooting.

Airbnb has taken numerous steps to try to deal with the nagging issue in the interim, including verifying listings, setting up neighborhood hot lines, and at at times conducting manual screening of bookings and banning certain younger people from reserving homes in areas near where they reside, for instance.

“Airbnb and Vrbo have been in conversations for the last few months and we have taken this time to ensure that we are deliberate with how the program is set up well for all involved, including ensuring the security of the information shared through the program and to ensure users’ privacy was accounted for in line with both companies’ privacy policies,” the spokesperson said.

Both short-term rental platforms already have programs in place to identify listings that have caused community concern. Vrbo investigates complaints raised from through its Stay Neighborly program and deactivates listings and notifies hosts, according to the announcement. Airbnb has a Neighborhood Support Line, investigates complaints, “and appropriately enforces its community policies such as removing the listing from the Airbnb platform,” the announcement said.

The companies said they are in discussions with other companies that are interested in joining the effort.

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Tags: airbnb, expedia, guests, vrbo

Photo credit: A pool at an Airbnb listing in Milan, Italy. Vrbo and Airbnb have taken steps to thwart homes used for house parties. Airbnb

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