Sometimes, the reason Airbnb bans you is obvious. It was for Maksym Bidnychenko, a Ukrainian national who fled Russia during the war, when he was attempting to book a stay in May.
What went wrong? Bidnychenko had a phone number with a Russian country code. And at the start of the war, Airbnb had suspended operations in Russia and had announced that people in Russia would no longer be able to make new reservations anywhere in the world. I asked Airbnb about his suspension, and it lifted his ban.
But sometimes the reasons for getting banned by Airbnb are a mystery. They were for Tamara Martin, a nurse from Bucyrus, Kan., who received an unexpected email from Airbnb saying it had suspended her account.
“The explanation was that I’m associated with someone who was banned,” she says. “No details. I have never had an issue personally with any rentals I have used.”
After I asked Airbnb about her suspension, it reinstated her account. But it wouldn’t tell me why she had been removed in the first place, “due to privacy reasons.”
Airbnb is the largest vacation rental platform in the world, with 6 million active listings and, in 2019, 54 million active bookers. Last year, Airbnb suspended more than 6,600 people from its platform for attempting to violate its party policy. Airbnb won’t disclose the number of bans for reasons beyond parties.
Why Airbnb bans a guest
I asked Airbnb how to ensure you don’t get banned.
Removals from the platform most commonly result from violations of its community policies and standards, says Airbnb spokeswoman Ruthie Wabula. “We take this type of action only when necessary to protect our community,” she said.
Airbnb’s community policies are a long read, so here they are in a nutshell: Being disrespectful of the community, mistreating the rental, tampering with security devices or accessing personal property other than your own are all grounds for account termination. There are issues on the technical side that can get you banned, too.
“Often for less serious issues that still represent violations of our policies, our team will issue warnings as well as guidance and education on how to better comply with the given policy moving forward,” Wabula says. “If the user continues to violate the policy despite the warnings, then the issue may escalate to further action, including possible account removal.”
There are other reasons Airbnb might terminate a guest’s account. These include being convicted of a crime.
Airbnb says that removal depends on the severity of the crime. “Lesser crimes,” such as disorderly conduct or marijuana possession, “are not removable offenses.” Other crimes, such as burglary, fraud and property damage, may result in further review or removal. Cases such as murder, terrorism, rape or child molestation could result in permanent removal.
The system isn’t always flawless. In September, a Pennsylvania councilperson at-large was banned for a possession and DUI charge from nine years ago. She was later reinstated after her tweet went viral.
Airbnb contracts Inflection as one of the companies it uses to conduct background checks of users. If it finds issues, the service could disable your account. These background checks are typically done 10 days before check-in for guests and when a host creates a listing. (This is only in the United States and India.)
Airbnb will also go a step further and freeze the accounts of users associated with someone who has a criminal record. People convicted of a crime could get around a ban by asking a friend or relative to make a reservation on their behalf.
Jannick Vielleuse, a physical therapist from Westford, Vt., contacted me for help in the spring after getting banned by Airbnb. She had always followed the rules and had consistently received high reviews from her hosts. It turns out that a friend of her husband had been convicted for his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, and because Vielleuse and her husband’s friend had logged into an account from the same IP address, Airbnb connected them. When I asked Airbnb about her account termination, it reinstated her account.
But how does Airbnb decide who is too close? In emails to people who have been banned, Airbnb said it bases its banning on factors such as location and email address; Airbnb wouldn’t comment on how it does this exactly. If Airbnb believes you’re affiliated with someone who is banned, it can also remove you. And the company offers no details beyond that.
How to undo an Airbnb ban
Is there a way to appeal a ban? Airbnb says usually.
“Users who are removed from the platform can typically respond to the removal email and request an appeal,” Wabula says. “Appeal reviews vary in time depending on the seriousness of the issue and the complexity of the case.”
That’s true up to a point. Many users have reported that appeals to Airbnb just end up with another quick denial, with no reason given. That’s frustrating to users who spend time preparing a case that they believe proves their innocence and indicates that they would be responsible guests.
And if the answer is still no? Well, there are plenty of other ways to rent a house for your next vacation.
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