Allegheny County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam Banned Then Reinstated on Airbnb
Bethany Hallam was about to finish planning her epic birthday vacation at the end of October to watch the Steelers play in Miami, then travel to North Carolina for the Pitt-UNC game, then finish in Philadelphia to see the Steelers take on the Eagles.
“It’s like the birthday trip of my dreams,” said Hallam, who, in addition to being Allegheny County’s general counsel, is a big Pittsburgh sports fan.
Then on Monday, Hallam received an email from Airbnb informing her that her reservation had been canceled and that she had been banned from the platform after a background check conducted for Airbnb revealed a “record match.” judicial”.
Hallam, a Democrat from the North Side of Pittsburgh, has been very open about her criminal history, which mostly involved opioid addiction and drug possession convictions. She spoke during her campaign in 2019 about how she was rehabilitated and how others weren’t as lucky as her.
She said she was confused by the cancellation, given that she had been using Airbnb for years and all of her convictions were from before 2015, when Airbnb enacted its criminal history policy.
Hallam shared the email on Twitter. After her tweet started going viral, Airbnb responded and asked to private message Hallam.
Hallam said after a few email exchanges, she was not banned.
— Bethany Hallam (@bethanyhallam) September 13, 2022
Throughout the process, she said she didn’t know why she was banned and what specific conviction led to it.
“I know my record because I talk about it a lot,” Hallam said. “For them to ban me for that – it was confusing. What are the guidelines for who gets banned?”
In a statement, Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit said the company is conducting background checks in the United States for public safety reasons and may remove people from the platform. who have “certain convictions or who have several previous convictions”.
He said Hallam was reinstated based on their appeal process.
“We understand that there can be a number of reasons why someone may have a criminal conviction on their record, so we have developed an evidence-based appeal process that takes into account the type of crime and the evidence of rehabilitation when considering reinstatement,” Breit said. .
But Hallam said the process for knowing who gets banned and appeals lacks too much transparency. She wants Airbnb to clarify which convictions result in the ban and how they are enforced.
Hallam said hundreds of people responded to his tweet, sharing stories about Airbnb being banned due to minor infractions such as traffic violations or disorderly conduct.
She doesn’t think the criminal record policy is applied fairly.
“I don’t really care about being reinstated, my reaction was more shock and frustration,” Hallam said. “I’m more concerned about anyone who isn’t elected and doesn’t have a social media platform to help them get reinstated.”
According to Airbnb’s website, “minor crimes like disorderly conduct or possession of marijuana” are not removable offenses, while crimes like burglary and felony theft can result in a 14-year ban, and the fraud can result in a seven-year ban. Murder, terrorism, rape or pedophilia can lead to permanent expulsion.
It’s unclear which of Hallam’s convictions resulted in a ban, and she doesn’t have convictions as serious as those listed on Airbnb’s website.
Hallam worries that this criminal sentencing policy will disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color, as they are more likely to interact with the criminal justice system. She said there are tens of thousands of people in Allegheny County with criminal records who are already struggling to find jobs or housing. Hallam said a policy like this only makes their lives harder.
“Airbnb may think I’m going to shut up and leave because I got reinstated, but I’m going to keep fighting them,” she said.