Is the party over for under-25s at Airbnb?

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The party may be over for under-25s at Airbnb properties.  The company announced the trial restrictions in an effort to cut down on rowdy parties and the spread of coronavirus.

Initial plans

Initially, Airbnb is planning to introduce the measures it has already implemented in the US and Canada in the UK, Spain and France.  

The company announced that as part of its crackdown, it would begin testing in the three countries a ban on under-25s with less than three positive ratings from renting entire homes near to where they live. 

Problems

Airbnb began moves last year to tackle the issue of parties as they were causing problems with neighbours in certain communities.  With the outbreak of coronavirus there has been even greater concern about events where social distancing measures are not being followed.

Exemptions

Under the measures being trialled, a person with at least three positive reviews and no negative reviews on Airbnb or with long-term plans is not subject to the restrictions.  Anyone can still book private rooms and hotel rooms using the platform.

“The restriction is intended to protect local communities while still allowing younger guests to book listings outside of their local area,” Airbnb said.

Response to coronavirus

It follows testing of similar measures in the US and Canada. The firm said it had also strengthened its ban on gatherings that violate public health mandates.  This was in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Discriminatory

Some UK lawyers, however, have warned that the curb on under-25s may be discriminatory.  Speaking to The Guardian, Michael Newman, discrimination and employment partner at Leigh Day, said someone could challenge the decision on legal grounds. They were unlikely to win, however, as Airbnb had put in measures, such as requesting good reviews.

Age limits

He said: “You can put in place age limits provided you have legitimate aims – so a good reason to do it – and don’t go further than what you have to.  I don’t know how I would defend the claim but the company has talked about the reasons they are doing it. It seems to be about preventing large gatherings that are not observing government guidance on social distancing.

Good reason

“So if they are doing it as they think without it there is a risk of people getting ill or getting Covid, that would be a good reason.  They have linked to geographical radius and look at past reviews, and limited to whole homes so if you want a room you still can get one.”

Committed

Airbnb said: “Airbnb is committed to being good partners to communities and today’s announcement follows a series of measures taken by the platform to clamp down on antisocial behaviour and unauthorised parties.”

It said the measures only impacted bookings within close proximity to where the booking guest lives, meaning younger guests can book any type of listing they want in other areas.  All guests under 25 are still free to book private rooms and hotel rooms through Airbnb, regardless of where they live.

Well-established practices

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It said the decision was informed by well-established practices.  Most notably that of the car rental industry.  This has long maintained a similar standard in an effort to improve safety.

House party ban

In a separate development, Airbnb has banned house parties as part of its efforts to comply with limits on gatherings.  This was in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.  Occupancy will be limited to 16 people, with a few exceptions for some venues.

Legal action

Lockdown parties hosted in Airbnb properties led the UK’s Bed and Breakfast Association to warn it was putting communities at risk.  The firm says it will pursue legal action if guests or hosts break the rules.  “Instituting a global ban on parties and events is in the best interest of public health,” Airbnb said.

Taking bar and club behaviour to homes

It added that 73% of its listings explicitly banned parties.  Some hosts allowed small parties such as baby showers or birthday celebrations.  Despite this, Airbnb acknowledged that some of its guests had chosen to “take bar and club behaviour to homes sometimes rented through our platforms”.

Irresponsible 

“We think such conduct is incredibly irresponsible.  We do not want that type of business.  Anyone engaged in or allowing that behaviour does not belong on our platform,” it said.

Airbnb had already begun to impose stricter limits, with a ban on party houses that created persistent neighbourhood nuisance.

To comply with social distancing rules, it had also removed the “event friendly” and “parties and events allowed” search filters.

Hard-hit

Like other travel firms, Airbnb has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Although in July it said that customers had booked more than one million nights in a single day.  This was the first time since March.

About the author

Niall Ó Brolcháin

is a journalist based in Derry in the North of Ireland. He is an Irish speaker with a BA (Hons) degree in Irish Language and Literature and a Master's degree in International Journalism: Hostile Environment Reporting. Passionate about local, national and international human, cultural, language and equality rights, he has extensive experience telling rich stories in words, photo and video both in Ireland and Palestine. email: niallb.babylon@gmail.com

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