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Can Airbnb Ban “Party Houses” After Five Deaths?

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky reacted swiftly to the news that five people were killed and at least eight others were wounded on Halloween during a party at a mansion rented through the accommodation-sharing platform. He announced on social media on Saturday that the site was immediately banning “party houses,” leading some to question what exactly a “party house” rental looks like.

After five people were shot to death and eight other people were wounded during a party at a mansion rented through Airbnb on Thursday night, the company’s founder and CEO vowed to crack down on so-called “party houses” available on the platform. Brian Chesky also ordered VP Margaret Richardson to lead a “10-day sprint” to implement policy and safety changes in response to the Halloween party tragedy in the Bay Area suburb.

“Starting today, we are banning ‘party houses’ and we are redoubling our efforts to combat unauthorized parties and get rid of abusive host and guest conduct, including conduct that leads to the terrible events we saw in Orinda,” Chesky wrote in a series of social media posts on Saturday.

“Here is what we are doing: First, we are expanding manual screening of high-risk reservations flagged by our risk detection technology. Second, we are creating a dedicated ‘party house’ rapid response team. Third, we are taking immediate action against users who violate these enhanced guest policies, including removal. I have directed Margaret Richardson from our Executive Team to oversee this new team and initiate a 10-day sprint to review and accelerate the development and implementation of these new safety initiatives. We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable.”

According to USA Today, the woman who rented the house for the purpose of hosting a large Halloween party told the Airbnb hosts that she would be using the property so that her asthmatic child could escape the smoke from the wildfires that have raged across large swaths of California. Police say they were called to the address on noise complaints at least twice before the shooting was first reported.

If Chesky believed his reforms announced on Twitter following the Halloween mayhem would be well-received by social media users, then he was mistaken. Property owners used the opportunity to complain that the platform has a history of looking the other way when revenue-generating Airbnb users abuse rentals to host parties or otherwise create dangerous situations.

“We run a holiday house that was occupied by one of your large parties they caused a fire, took drugs caused major upset, we told them to go and your company gave them their money back for the night they didn’t stay!” one Twitter user responded. “Think this has been an accident waiting to happen, we left AIRBB.”

Other Twitter users questioned the sincerity of a CEO announcing a “party house rapid response team.” Still others wondered how exactly Airbnb officials will go about identifying and policing properties thought to fall under the nebulous-sounding category of “party house.”



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MimiB22 November 6, 2019

I can tell you what an Airbnb house looks like... we had one in our neighborhood here in South Florida. They look like any other home, except that their owners are rarely in residence, often due to the seasonal occupancy of many larger homes. Our gated community does not allow short term rentals for less than a month, but they continue to be a problem because enforcement is difficult and lax. It's up to neighbors to call security and police if things get out of hand, as they often do at the parties.However, authorities generally will not respond unless the hour is extremely late, the noise [yelling, loud music, etc] is reverberating through out the neighborhood and partiers are trespassing, fighting, driving on lawns, peeing on shrubs, etc. The rental agencies and owners, whether Airbnb or others, always claim they had no idea that a party was going to be held on the premises, but then point out that renters are allowed to "entertain", as though these gatherings were normal social evenings.