The Party’s Over at Airbnb

The someone-else’s-house rental platform officially bans house parties forever.
four happy friends by a pool
Westend61 via Getty

For almost as long as it has existed, Airbnb has been dealing with—or, more precisely, not dealing with—a pervasive problem, namely that one thing people really like to do is rent someone else’s house to throw ragers. “Historically, we allowed Hosts to use their best judgment and authorize parties when appropriate for their home and neighborhood,” Airbnb said in a recent blog post. But the party is now over as parties are, officially and forever, banned at all Airbnbs.

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Parties have long been a controversial issue with Airbnb, exemplifying many of the ways the “sharing economy” creates new problems for other people who never opted in or get any compensation for their troubles. Neighbors suddenly live next to a poorly-staffed nightclub and local police who have to constantly deal with the noise complaints. Even the property owners sometimes found themselves stuck with huge repair bills after their house was trashed.

Airbnb did next to nothing about this for many years, because it was the one entity that suffered few negative consequences. The party house money was just as good, if not better due to their large sizes, than anyone else’s. But the party house issue reached a critical point during COVID when house parties were, for a while, the best surreptitious option for people to get together when bars, restaurants, and other event spaces were either closed or had significant limitations due to public health rules. In response, some cities have pursued limiting or banning short-term rentals, forcing Airbnb’s hand. So in August 2020 Airbnb announced a temporary ban on all parties and events, including capping houses to 16 guests. Airbnb has now declared that ban permanent.

Under the policy, which was modified following a recent “Summer Release” by the company of new features, certain hosts can now allow more than 16 guests in homes that can accommodate many people. The examples Airbnb gives are “from castles in Europe to vineyards in the US to large beachfront villas in the Caribbean” meant to host “multi-generational family trips and larger groups.” But there will be “serious consequences” for people who “attempt to violate” the no-party rule, “varying from account suspension to full removal from the platform.” Airbnb and Vrbo also share data on house party addresses (incidentally, this puts the home-rental platforms ahead of airlines, which have not yet agreed to sharing lists of banned unruly passengers). 

Airbnb will also use temporary bans on certain types of bookings to try and prevent parties from being had, such as banning guests “without a history of positive reviews” from making reservations on whole homes during party weekends like July 4, Memorial Day, and Halloween. 

“We also understand that the simple fact of not yet having reviews does not mean that a guest is trying to throw a party,” Airbnb said in its post announcing the policy. “This is a trade-off we are willing to make in the interest of trust and safety.”

Since it started instituting party bans, Airbnb says there has been a 44 percent reduction year-over-year in party reports, which makes one wonder just how effective this ban really is. During mass layoffs in 2020, Airbnb significantly downsized its safety team.