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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Airbnb may take legal action against unauthorized New Year’s Eve parties

The company hopes to proactively shut down large gatherings in rentals amid the coronavirus pandemic

(iStock/Washington Post illustration)
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With the coronavirus pandemic breaking grim records in the United States, Airbnb has announced stringent restrictions for New Year’s Eve bookings to discourage unauthorized house parties and large gatherings in the interest of public health.

“We have carefully developed this New Year’s Eve initiative informed by [host] feedback along with a review of our data, systems and tools,” Airbnb said in a statement. “We believe this plan will help prevent large gatherings while supporting the type of safe, responsible travel that benefits guests, hosts and the neighborhoods they call home.”

The protocols will make it more difficult for guests without a history of positive reviews on the platform to make local and last-minute reservations.

In certain markets — including the United States, Canada and Mexico, among others — there will now be a two-night minimum booking for entire-home listings for guests who don’t have a history of positive reviews.

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Guests with existing positive reviews who have booked one-night reservations in the past will not face the restriction, “allowing a pathway for guests who have demonstrated a commitment to being a responsible traveler through their histories of positive reviews,” the company said.

Once a New Year’s Eve booking is completed, guests must promise not to throw an unauthorized party and acknowledge that they may face legal action should they violate the rules.

The company says it’s providing guidance for Airbnb hosts to help prevent parties, as well, and it will operate a “virtual command center” with trained safety agents to process any issues throughout New Year’s Eve.

Airbnb has been increasingly strict against parties at listings since last fall, when a deadly shooting took place at an unauthorized party in a California Airbnb Halloween rental. While the company has always prohibited such gatherings, it put a worldwide ban on house parties this summer and expanded its hotline for neighbors to report listings that violated the rule. Additionally, listings are now capped at 16-person occupancy.

In August, Airbnb took legal action against an unauthorized party host for the first time. This Halloween, Airbnb banned one-night bookings in North America to stop large gatherings; the company says that effort went successfully.

“In the midst of a generational crisis, all of us have a role to play in protecting public health and slowing the spread of covid-19,” Airbnb had said. “That includes platforms like Airbnb, and we are committed to doing our part in particular to try and stop large gatherings.”

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