Planning a big bash? Airbnb debuts technology to block it

Airbnb has launched new “anti-party” technology to prevent guests from holding the rowdy gatherings that have plagued some neighborhoods in Central Florida and across the country.

The company unveiled the automated screening tools last week and is already using them to detect suspicious bookings in places where hosts rent out entire homes, said Ben Breit, safety and security spokesman for Airbnb. The rollout of the new system follows Airbnb’s formal adoption of a no-party policy this June.

Parties at Osceola County rental properties, including Airbnbs, have been a problem for property owners and neighbors in areas near Disney World and Kissimmee in recent years. The county sheriff’s office began efforts to ban these parties in 2020.

Airbnb’s technology looks at factors that might be associated with an unauthorized party and prevents potential guests from making a reservation if their reservation is flagged, Breit said. They include account history, such as feedback from past stays, how old the account is and the visitor’s age, as well as the circumstances of the booking, such as its length and how far it is from the visitor’s location.

“If you’ve done the platform for a while as a guest and have a lot of positive reviews, you’re unlikely to be affected by something like this,” Breit said.

Visitors who the system prevents from booking an entire home can still book other types of stays, such as a private room in a residential residence or a hotel room. Private room listings abound in Central Florida, he said.

“If you’re trying to throw an unauthorized party, you’re probably not going to be too excited about it because people generally don’t get away with unauthorized parties in a scenario where the host is right there,” Breit said.

The proprietary technology is based on years of research and pilot programs, but “no system is perfect,” Breit said. So users can contact Airbnb’s support team if they think their legitimate booking has been mistakenly blocked.

The hosts have supported the initiative, Breit said.

“They don’t want disruptive, unauthorized parties happening on their properties for no reason, including the possibility of property damage. [and] respect for their neighbors”, he said. “The reason we invest in these technologies is, in many ways, as a service to our hosts.”

The move is Airbnb’s latest to stop people from using the site to rent space for parties and events.

In late 2019, the company began banning “chronic party houses,” or properties listed for the purpose of hosting parties, after five people were killed at a Halloween party at a rental home in California. It also launched a neighborhood support line for neighbors to report issues directly to the company.

He temporarily banned parties and events from all listings in August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That same year, Airbnb began limiting short-stay bookings during major holidays and restricting some visitors under 25 from booking entire homes near where they live unless they had a history of positive reviews.

“This [new system] it’s really much stronger and much more sophisticated, but also more accurate,” Breit said.

Since Airbnb began the crackdown in 2019, it has removed “a number of listings” in Central Florida and across the state where hosts were renting out vacation homes, Breit said. Reported parties at Airbnb properties are down over 70% nationally year-on-year since the 2020 ban as a result, compared to a 44% drop globally, he said.

According to the company, almost 250,000 visitors registered at Orlando Airbnb rental properties in the first half of 2022.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Michelle Guido said the agency has not been notified of any problems with parties at vacation rentals in recent years, outside of possible noise complaints.

Law enforcement in Osceola County faced problems with block parties at vacation homes in Kissimmee in 2020, prompting the sheriff’s office to begin conducting increased patrols in certain neighborhoods.

Agency spokeswoman Nirva Rodriguez said the patrols, combined with the sheriff’s office’s cooperation with property owners, were successful in curbing these parties.

“There are still some locations that will occasionally have a large house party, however, tenants have been more aware of past issues and have placed more emphasis on safety and transportation services,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

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