Airbnb’s anti-party rules blocked 3,500 rentals in Boston this year

The app assumes its role as the region’s chief party animal.

Photo via Getty/Image source

Listen to this? It’s the sound of college kids do not throw up on his neighbor’s lawn at 3 a.m. In times of pandemic, nothing less.

Thousands of young Bostonians hoping to house haters at Airbnbs last year faced off against the home-rental app’s celebratory prowess, amid its year-long effort to stop young people from gathering irresponsibly and noisily in homes hosted on its platform. At a time when holding large gatherings with swarms of unmasked revelers was a public health threat — and as disputes among locked-down neighbors over disruptive noise reached a fever pitch — Airbnb says it shut down 3,500 potential parties in their run around the city this past year.

Figure comes as company backtracks on new anti-House party rules announcement in July 2020. These rules prohibited anyone under the age of 25 who did not have a history of positive reviews from Airbnb hosts from booking entire homes in cities and towns near their home. App users over the age of 25 are exempt from this rule, as are young renters with at least three positive reviews on the app or who only book a private room.

The measures were designed to prevent exactly the kind of Airbnb activity neighbors despise: crowds of 20-somethings cramming into rented homes and partying into the wee hours of the morning, transforming homes into from quiet residential streets to makeshift nightclubs. Explaining this new policy at the time, Airbnb insisted that less than 1% of its bookings lead to “security-related issues,” but the pandemic has required extreme measures to reduce that number even further.

“Today, Airbnb released new data indicating progress in our initiatives to try to crack down on unauthorized parties in Boston,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “Parties are rare, and the vast majority of guests in Boston are contributing positively and are respectful. However, when parties do occur, we know it can be disruptive for Hosts and neighbors, which is why we have continued to invest in trust and security.

Airbnb has also instituted a “party ban”, last year, which prohibits more than 16 people of any age from congregating at properties listed on its site, and warns guests that any major disruptions could lead to bookings being cancelled. And earlier this month he announced partnership with another rental platform, Expedia spin-off Vrbo, which will work with a third party to identify problematic properties.

Pandemic or not, the controversy surrounding house parties has been a source of lingering headaches for Airbnb. Locally, this includes the infamous case of murder still unsolved at a house party at an Airbnb in Lynnfield in 2016. The incident led to sweeping new enforcement regulations in that community, and a lengthy lawsuit up to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Airbnb says its tally of 3,500 stalled reservations last year includes people who live in Boston and several area suburbs, all of whom were blocked from renting nearby homes. He did not identify the cities and towns in which young Bostonians were denied reservations, so as not to warn would-be revelers how far away they needed to rent accommodation to beat the system. He also didn’t provide data on how many house parties he might have thwarted in Boston proper, though he brushed off new restrictions on Airbnbs in Boston, which took effect at the end of 2019have drastically reduced the number of Airbnbs available for stays in the city.

The app appears to have blocked more of these types of reservations near Boston than in areas around cities of similar size. He blocked 3,000 reservations around DC, 2,600 around Baltimore and 1,500 around Buffalo.

The announcement also comes ahead of July 4, a classic party weekend made all the more tempting for future Airbnb revelers by the Vaccine Summer revelry. To keep any unwanted holiday cheer in check, the app says it has banned bookings for this weekend to anyone without a stellar record of guest reviews, whether their bookings are local or not.

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t party here.

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