Airbnb adopts ‘anti-party’ technology

With increasing pressure coming from local municipalities, including outright bans on short-term rental properties, Airbnb is motivated to find a solution to the problem that some of their rental houses are bad neighbors.

“It was just non-stop parties. Every weekend there was a party. Fourth of July weekend, the cops had to come and clear out 350 people,” Michael Asselin said.

Asselin lived next to an Airbnb rental in Houston’s Westview Terrace subdivision before moving to another city with stricter short-term rental regulations.

In response to growing problems similar to what Aselin experienced, in August 2020 Airbnb announced a temporary ban on all parties and events at properties advertised and rented through its short-term rental booking site.

“When the pandemic hit, as many bars and clubs closed or limited their occupancy, we started to see some people resorting to partying behavior in rental properties, including through Airbnb,” the company wrote in a June press release.

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In June, the company announced that the policy was now permanent.

The next question was how to enforce the ban.

The short-term rental giant announces it has come up with a solution.

Airbnb now uses a combination of metrics to determine if a renter is likely to host a party in the rental home, including but not limited to; positive review history, length of time the guest has been on Airbnb, length of trip, distance to listing, and day of the week.

Airbnb reports that the technology is designed to prevent a booking if a combination of indicators flags a renter.

Such technology is designed to prevent renters under the age of 25 from securing short-term rentals through Airbnb’s booking system.

Clear Lake Shores, a small town in Galveston County near Kemah, recently passed an ordinance banning any new short-term rentals in the municipality.

The 20 or so that were registered before the ban are obsolete under the law.

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But city leaders are of the opinion that until a longer-term solution can be worked out, the best short-term policy is to ban so-called “STRs” altogether.

“It’s important to face this and get our ordinance, make sure it’s legal and have an ordinance that’s in place and strong to put an end to this,” Mayor Kurt Otten said.

The ban makes it a violation of city ordinance for an individual homeowner or corporation to rent a home in the municipality for a period of less than 30 days.

In Galveston, where short-term rentals dot nearly every street, owners are required to pay a fee to register their properties, display that registration on the property, file reports (monthly or quarterly, depending on income) and pay city hotel tax.

Registration is not the same as policing, as some neighbors will point out.

But Galveston certainly does more to regulate the industry than Houston.

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Unlike the city of Houston, the city of Galveston has even dedicated a web space to the problem of GalvestonTX.gov.

Houston, which has almost 12,000 short-term rentals, requires absolutely nothing. There are really no laws or regulations specifically aimed at monitoring short-term rental activity. Instead, the city relies on individual neighborhoods to regulate activity through HOA bylaws, covenants and deed restrictions.

Asselin believes cities have a duty to protect citizens from those who put their neighbors at risk to operate a business in a residential area.

“This is a matter of public safety and it’s their responsibility to keep the public safe,” Asselin said.

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