No tricking: Airbnb bans one-night rentals for Halloween

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In response to the coronavirus pandemic, professional party promoters have started scanning Airbnb, Vrbo and other short-term rental sites for mansions and luxury condos for hire. - handout/Dreamstime/TNS

Airbnb is banning one-night rentals the weekend of Halloween, which lands on a Saturday.

It’s the latest move by the short-term rental company to both stop large parties and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“The great majority of guests are respectful of our hosts’ homes and neighbors, and we understand that this initiative will disrupt many one-night reservations that might not have led to parties,” Airbnb posted on its website. “This action is designed to help protect our hosts and the communities they live in. We will also be introducing additional measures to complement the two-night minimum in an effort to stop as many large gatherings as possible.”

The ban on one-night rentals applies to Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 and includes properties in both the U.S. and Canada. Any one-night rentals booked previously have been canceled and the renters reimbursed, the company said.

Founded in 2008, Airbnb offers travelers an alternative to traditional hotel rooms, often at a better price. And it allows property owners to profit from the short-term renters.

Thus far during the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta-area “hosts” have earned more than $30 million, Airbnb said earlier this month. The typical Atlanta host has earned more than $4,100 even during the pandemic, which forced shutdowns that slowed the economy, the company said.

“During this time of economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that Atlanta residents be able to share their homes to earn meaningful extra money,” Airbnb public policy manager Chloe Burke said in an emailed statement. “That’s why we’re committed to working with city leaders on equitable and fair short-term rental rules that allow responsible hosts to continue earning this meaningful income.”

But on the downside, some rentals have been used as party venues and even become crime scenes, prompting Airbnb to increase efforts to screen reservations.

In 2019, Airbnb announced it had banned house parties and initiated a 24/7 Neighborhood Support Hotline in the U.S., where neighbors can report concerns. Calls to the hotline led to many of the listing suspensions in Atlanta, Airbnb said.

Last year, the company also announced it was using technology that helped screen reservations.

“Since the expansion of our manual review of high-risk reservations last year, more than 360 reservations in Atlanta have been canceled,” the company said.

But a handful of short-term reservations have ended in tragedy.

In July, two teenagers were shot and killed outside a house party in northwest Atlanta’s Vine City neighborhood, according to police. Earlier in July, an Atlanta Airbnb listing was the scene of another homicide. On July 16, 36-year-old Mikhail Sher was found dead from multiple gunshots outside a Griffin Street home, according to police.

It’s unclear how long Sher had rented the house, which was listed on both Airbnb and Vrbo for about $180 a night. An Airbnb spokesman said while the home was available on the company’s platform the night Sher was killed, there was no record of it being reserved.

But in recent weeks, Atlanta police have not responded to any calls reporting loud parties at short-term rentals, a spokesman said.

Earlier this week, the Atlanta City Council passed its own ban on party houses, legislation that was first proposed more than a year ago. The resolution specifically targets large events held in homes where an admission fee is charged.

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©2020 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)