In a continuing effort to prevent unauthorized parties that disturb neighborhoods, Airbnb has imposed a new set of restrictions for Halloween.
“We recognize that there are certain times of year and certain holidays that encourage folks to try to throw an unauthorized party, which is why we have these elevated measures intact,” Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit said.
As a result, anyone who does not have a history of positive reviews will not be able to book a one-night reservation for any home Halloween weekend.
For guests looking for a two-night stay, other measures are in place. Airbnb will utilize its technology to restrict certain local and last-minute bookings by guests who do not have a history of positive reviews.
Meanwhile, people with a history of positive reviews will need to attest that they understand Airbnb’s party ban and that they may be subject to legal action if they break rules against rowdy behavior.
“Ultimately, we hope this will stop as many unauthorized parties as possible,” Breit said. “What we want here is for everyone who is using our platform during these particular holidays to be doing so in a safe and responsible manner that’s respectful of neighbors.”
The policy is predicated on the company’s existing global party ban, which was announced in August 2020.
That policy placed a maximum occupancy of 16 people on all residences, created a 24/7 neighborhood support hotline and further restricted guests under age 25 who do not have a history of positive reviews locally.
“Ultimately, what we’re most concerned about is stopping the large disruptive parties,” Breit said. “When we see issues, it’s an unauthorized party or a party that’s being thrown without the knowledge or consent of the host.”
There are an approximately 4,425 short-term rentals in Scottsdale and rowdiness is not uncommon.
“It is an issue from north to south and east to west,” said Scottsdale Assistant City Manager Brent Stockwell.
The city has taken several steps to curb bothersome parties at short-term rentals.
City Council passed two ordinances in 2019 that pose fines as heavy as $4,000 for repeat violations on property owners and renters who host nuisance parties or unlawful gatherings.
One law requires short-term rental property owners to file emergency contact information with the city and prevents them from using the homes for non-residential purposes.
This ordinance is enforced by the city’s code enforcement department. As of June 30, there were 538 cases opened, most of which have been closed.
The second ordinance is aimed at all homes to get around the state Legislature’s ban on municipal-level regulation of short-term rentals.
That ordinance is enforced by Scottsdale Police and prevents nuisance parties, defined as those that create a “substantial disturbance of the quiet enjoyment of private or public property.”
A party can qualify as a nuisance when it involves fighting, public drunkenness, the blockage of traffic or excessive noise. An unlawful gathering involves illegal activity, such as underage drinking or drug use.
There were over 1,500 calls for service under this ordinance from Scottsdale residence to the police between October 2019 and the end of June 2021.
Halloween is not the only holiday that has drawn additional restrictions from Airbnb.
“Currently the holidays that we’ve implemented initiatives like this are New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July and Halloween,” Breit said.
“For certain holidays we’re just a little more conservative in our approaches because it’s just such a high priority for us to ensure that our community is being respectful of the communities in which we operate.”
However, Halloween is not a typical day for illegal gatherings or nuisance parties at short-term rentals in Scottsdale, Stockwell said.
In general, they occur during the tourism season, (mid-January to mid-April) and holidays that create three-day weekends, such as Labor Day and Memorial Day.
City Council also formed a short-term rental task force in March.
“We have a game plan to manage the impact of these short-term rentals,” Stockwell said.
Staff will go before Council on Nov. 16 to provide an update on the task force’s work and recommend amendments to relevant ordinances.
In the meantime, Airbnb has underscored the onus it has placed on property owners to respect neighbors.
“There are a number of ways that a host can get ahead of these things and a lot it is about being really clear about your house rules and about the importance of respecting neighbors,” Breit said.
“We’ve had a lot of interactions with neighbors, policy makers and local law enforcement,” he continued. “A really important way that we enforce our party house ban is through direct interaction with neighbors.”
Ultimately, the most important partners are the hosts, Breit said.
“Even before we implemented our party ban, the vast majority of our hosts were already banning parties in their own house rules,” he said.
“It is important to give hosts the tools and education they need to complement our policies and our products,” he said.
Several hosts may have outdoor security systems and some hosts may have noise detection technology that records audio but do not register decibel levels.
“What we’re focused on right now is safe and responsible travel,” Breit said. “Part of promoting safe and responsible travel means being respectful of neighbors and not throwing a disruptive party.”