KPRC 2 investigation: Airbnb adopts “anti-party” technology

HOUSTON – With growing pressure from local municipalities, including an outright ban on short-term rentals, Airbnb is motivated to find a solution to the problem of some of their rental properties being bad neighbors.

“It was just non-stop parties. Every weekend there was a party. On the 4th of July weekend, the cops had to come and evacuate 350 people,” Michael Aselin said.

Aselin lived next door to an Airbnb rental home in Houston’s Westview Terrace subdivision before moving to another city with stricter short-term rental regulations.

In response to growing issues similar to those experienced by Aselin, in August 2020, Airbnb announced a temporary ban on all parties and events at properties advertised and rented through its short-term rental booking site.

“When the pandemic hit, as many bars and clubs closed or restricted occupancy, we began to see some people exhibit party behavior in rented homes, including through Airbnb,” the company wrote in a statement. June press release.

In June, the company announced that the policy was now permanent.

The next question was how to enforce the ban.

The short-term rental giant claims to have found a solution.

Airbnb now uses a combination of metrics to determine if a tenant is likely to host a party in the rental home, including but not limited to; positive review history, length of stay of guest on Airbnb, length of trip, distance to listing, and day of week.

Airbnb reports that the technology is designed to prevent booking if a combination of measures flags the tenant.

Similar technology is designed to prevent renters under the age of 25 from obtaining a short-term rental through Airbnb’s reservation system.

Clear Lake Shores, a small town in Galveston County near Kemah, recently passed an ordinance that bans all new short-term rentals in the municipality.

The approximately 20 that were registered before the ban are grandfathered under the law.

But city leaders are of the view that until a longer-term solution can be found, the best short-term policy is to ban so-called “STRs” altogether.

“It’s important to step up and get our order, make sure it’s legal and have a solid order in place to stop this,” Mayor Kurt Otten said.

The ban makes it a violation of the municipal ordinance for an individual landlord, or a corporation, to rent a house in the municipality for a period of less than 30 days.

In Galveston, where short-term rentals dot nearly every street, landlords are required to pay a fee to register their properties, display this registration on the property, submit reports (monthly or quarterly, depending on income) and remit the city ​​hotel tax.

Recording is not the same as police activity, as some neighbors will point out.

But Galveston is certainly doing more to regulate the industry than Houston.

Unlike the City of Houston, the City of Galveston even has a web space dedicated to the issue at

Houston, which has nearly 12,000 short-term rentals, requires nothing at all. There are really no laws or regulations aimed specifically at controlling short-term rental activity. Instead, the city relies on individual neighborhoods to regulate activity through bylaws, covenants, and deed restrictions.

Aselin believes cities have a duty to protect citizens from those who endanger their neighbors, in order to run a business in a residential area.

“It’s a matter of public safety, and their responsibility to maintain public safety,” Aselin said.

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