Airbnb bans house parties worldwide, citing virus mandates

Airbnb is banning house parties worldwide as it tries to clean up its reputation and comply with coronavirus-related limits on gatherings.

The San Francisco home sharing company will limit occupancy in its rental homes to 16 people. It may offer exceptions for boutique hotels or other event venues.

Airbnb said it may pursue legal action against guests and hosts who violate the ban. Last week, for the first time, Airbnb took legal action against a guest who held an unauthorized party in Sacramento County, California.

Airbnb has always prohibited unauthorized parties, and the company said nearly 75% of its listings explicitly ban parties.

But after a deadly shooting at a California Airbnb rental last Halloween, the company has taken multiple steps to crack down on parties. Five people were killed in the shooting, which happened during an unauthorized party.

Last November, Airbnb started manually reviewing U.S. and Canadian reservations to weed out suspicious rentals, like a guest who booked a one-night stay close to their home. It expanded that program to Australia last week.

In July, Airbnb banned U.S. and Canadian guests under age 25 with fewer than three positive reviews from booking entire homes close to where they live. It expanded that policy to the United Kingdom, Spain and France last week.

Airbnb said it also plans to expand a hotline for neighbors to report unauthorized parties.

Airbnb says around 2% of the 7 million properties listed on its site can accommodate 16 or more people. There are at least 53 in London, 277 in Beijing, 170 in New York and 116 in Los Angeles, according to the company’s website.

Twelve-year-old Airbnb has been trying to shed its couch-surfing image and appeal to more types of travelers ahead of its initial public offering. Last year it announced an effort to verify all of its properties, for example.

Airbnb filed preliminary paperwork for a stock offering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. The initial public offering could take place later this year.

The company also said it wants to make sure it’s complying with public health mandates. Los Angeles County has a ban on gatherings of people from different households, for example.

Airbnb said the coronavirus-related closure of bars and nightclubs has led to an increase in big house parties, sometimes at its rentals.

“We do not want that type of business, and anyone engaged in or allowing that behavior does not belong on our platform,” Airbnb said in a post on its website.

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