Is Airbnb the Party Pooper?

With bars and nightclubs shuttered in the Pandemic, some young folks are holding house parties. Perhaps in your house or an Airbnb new you. The “Party House” isn’t a new phenomenon, but the problem has gotten worse in the past six months.

Following through on a pledge to ban parties in its short-term rental listings, Airbnb announced recently that it has so far suspended or removed hundreds of properties worldwide from its online platform.

According to Airbnb, “party houses” are homes that have either received complaints from neighbors or violated Airbnb’s policies on parties and events.

If the party happens at your pad, you could face suspension or removal of your listing. Airbnb differentiates a removal, which is permanent, from a suspension, which is temporary and varies in duration, depending on the severity of the issues.

While Airbnb already had instituted a worldwide prohibition of party houses that “create persistent neighborhood nuisance” late last year, it announced recently that it would start banning all parties and events in homes listed on its website. It’s likely that we can expect to see more listings removed as Airbnb continues its crackdown.

Airbnb points out on its website that unauthorized parties have always been barred at its listings, noting that 73 percent of the homes listed on its site worldwide already prohibit parties in their “house rules,” and that the “vast majority of our guests behave in manners that show respect for House Rules and for neighbors.”

Airbnb says it stepped up its efforts since the pandemic started by removing the “event-friendly” search filter from its platform as well as “parties and events allowed” house rules from what it describes as event-friendly listings. In addition, the more recent global ban on party houses includes a provision that occupancy at Airbnb listings will be capped at 16 people.

As travel changes, the way people book stays has changed as well. For the most part, this means more local travel, with guests favoring things like self-check-in and plenty of outdoor space. A very small portion of guests, however, has used Airbnb to book places for parties and large gatherings. In an effort to help protect hosts and their neighboring communities in light of COVID-19, Airbnb launched a policy that bans parties globally.

But what can you as a host do to stop the party at your house? The best strategy is to dissuade party throwers from ever booking a property. This is done by giving them the impression that someone is paying attention.   Having a property manager is one way.   Many hosts are either traveling or otherwise too busy to keep tabs on every reservation/guest.  Having security cameras and being direct about having them also gives potential guests an understanding that someone is paying attention.  We certainly don’t want guests to feel like they’re “being watched” but they should know that someone is paying attention and that they’re in someone else home and that imposes certain limitations on how they can use that home.

Do what can be done legally to overt the problem before the party invitations go out. HostWell is using House Rules to help combat the problem before the guests even check-in. Remember, house rules are legally binding.  As such, guests can be held accountable for any terms in the house rules at least for direct bookings or for bookings through the Airbnb platform.   By adding specific charges for parties and events in the house rules, you can dissuade people from booking who intend to throw a party.  It’s always preferable to have a vacant night than to have to deal with the aftermath of a party.

Turn off instant booking, if you can and check each request carefully. Check host reviews. If the guest has no reviews or negative reviews, no booking. Don’t accept single night bookings on the weekends. Bookings by guests who live nearby can be a red flag. But keep in mind, that guests are staying closer to home during the pandemic and may be simply looking for a change of scenery for a few days. Be sure to ask questions. It’s not uncommon for hosts to send a brief questionnaire to potential guests to learn more about their reason for the stay.

It’s essential to keep an eye and ear on the property while honoring guest privacy during their stay. As a policy, HostWell customarily only monitors the exterior of homes and generally any entry/exit points.   Unless required by law we do not recommend monitoring pools/hot tubs although some insurance policies may require monitoring of pools for safety.   In many cases, hosts are required to fully disclose all areas monitored and the locations of cameras.

HostWell recommends a camera system that records offsite and provides notification when cameras are offline (guests can tend to tamper with them).  Nest cameras are easy to install and can be hardwired to power so they can be installed in harder to reach locations.   Battery-powered ones, such as the Netgear Arlo cameras can go missing or stop working when batteries die.  These create one more home maintenance task that becomes critical to proper monitoring of a home.

If you have a Google home, then the Google Nest devices are recommended. If you have an Alexa home, then the ring devices are better integrated.   Both have battery and hardwire and indoor and outdoor cameras.

There is a growing list of sonic monitoring devices that alert you if decibel levels rise to potential problems levels in your home.

A Guide To Airbnb Noise Monitoring Devices

All have monthly fees for monitoring even though they don’t do much other than notifying an app if a threshold is reached, but all allow you to check the status anytime via their app.

Party Houses aren’t just a nuisance for neighbors and a potential economic loss for owners, they can jeopardize the ability to offer short-term rentals for the entire local municipality. Neighborhood complaints about a multi-million-dollar party house in Denver resulted in the passage of occupancy requirements similar to those in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area. A Halloween party in Orinda where five people were killed caused local authorities to suspended all non-hosted listings for a period of one year while the council decided on more permanent measures.