Airbnb bans "party houses" from listings after murders

Something terrible happened on Halloween night in the San Francisco suburb of Orinda. A raucous house party in a mansion erupted into chaos when one or more people began shooting. When it was all over, five people were dead and others sustained serious injuries. There have still been no arrests.

What sets this apart from other mass shootings is the fact that it took place at a house being rented out on Airbnb. The owner of the home was not present, though he was monitoring some of the activity using his Ring doorbell camera system. The remarkable part of this tragic story is that Airbnb seems to be taking the blame for it. They’re instituting a new “no party” policy that they claim will be aggressively enforced. (Associated Press)

Airbnb’s CEO said the company was taking actions against unauthorized parties in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Halloween party held at an Airbnb rental home in California.

In a series of tweets, Brian Chesky said Saturday the San Francisco-based company is expanding manual screening of “high risk” reservations and will remove guests who fail to comply with policies banning parties at Airbnb rental homes.

He also said the company is forming a “rapid response team” when complaints of unauthorized parties come in.

“We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable,” he tweeted.

Chesky seems to be rushing to take responsibility for this tragedy prematurely, if not incorrectly, and opening his company up to potential litigation in the process. Reading through the details of the case, there’s clearly some other person or persons to blame here rather than Airbnb’s policies or the app the homeowner used to arrange the rental.

The guest arranging for the rental clearly lied to the homeowner. She said she had relatives who were escaping the foul, smokey air of a wildfire burning to the north and wanted to put them up for the night in the home. The owner was suspicious of such a large group arriving on Halloween night and reminded the renter that no parties were allowed. He was assured there would be no party.

Of course, a DJ showed up along with crowds of people who immediately launched into a large, noisy celebration. The event was even announced on social media, being described as a “mansion party.” A neighbor called the owner to complain about the noise and he called the police after seeing the activity (in violation of the rental agreement) on his doorbell camera. The police were already on the way when the shooting broke out.

Airbnb allows a maximum of 13 guests in a residence that size. The renter assured the owner that only 12 of her relatives were coming. So she lied about that as well.

So who was at fault here? Airbnb already had policies in place to prevent such a disaster if the rules had been followed. The owner took steps to ensure there would be no partying but was convinced that a group of people needed shelter from the effects of wildfires and relented. I can not conceive of how either the company or the owner is at fault here. In the end, the person or people doing the shooting obviously bear responsibility for the murders and injuries. A case might be made that the renter is at least partly at fault for lying about her intentions when renting the home, but there’s no indication she knew a shooting would take place.

It seems to me that Brian Chesky might want to walk that statement back a bit. He’s making it sound as if the fact that a party took place and people were killed was somehow the fault of Airbnb. And if he’s willing to take the blame, the families of the victims will be along with their lawyers in no time to try to make him pay.