Airbnb Is Banning Party Houses After A Deadly Halloween Shooting: An Explainer

Airbnb will now ban “party houses” and double their efforts to crack down on unauthorized parties held at properties on their platform after a deadly shooting at one such house party on Halloween left five dead and many injured. The incident took place at a four-bedroom property in the Contra Costa County suburb of Orinda on Thursday evening, where a party advertised on social media had grown to over 100 people in attendance. According to a statement released by the Contra Costa County Sherrif’s Office, officers arrived at the property in response to a noise complaint and found “a highly chaotic scene that included gunshot victims, injured party-goers, and numerous people fleeing the scene.”

According to the LA Times, three victims were pronounced dead at the scene, with another two dying from their injuries after being transported to a nearby hospital. As of now, no arrests have been made. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky offered his condolences to the families and neighbors affected by the events on Twitter over the weekend and announced the ban, effective as of November 2nd, 2019.

How Did This Happen?

According to an anonymous source familiar with the transaction but unable to publicly disclose information, the Associated Press reports that the Orinda property was rented for a one night stay on October 31st by a woman who told the owner that her and her family were seeking refuge from a nearby fire burning in Sonoma County, 60 miles North of Orinda. The woman claimed that she and her dozen family members had severe asthma and could not stay near the fire.

Property owner Michael Wang was sensibly suspicious of a one-night rental on Halloween, so he made an effort to remind the renter that parties were explicitly prohibited at the four-bedroom home. According to Orinda’s city ordinances, short-term rental hosts must not have occupancy exceeding 13 people at any time, or they run the risk of being prohibited from listing their homes on short-term rental markets like Airbnb.

Wang claims that his wife reached out to the renter on Thursday night after receiving complaints from neighbors who contacted them about the party. AP reports that the renter responded that there were only a dozen people at the home, but Wang saw many more people in attendance in video footage from his doorbell camera. “We called the police. They were on the way to go there to stop them, but before they got there the neighbor already sent us a message saying there was a shooting,” Wang told the San Francisco Chronicle.

As of now, no arrests have been made and police have not identified a motive for the attack, though two weapons were found at the scene. Aside from the five deaths, the number of people injured in the attack is still unconfirmed.

Airbnb’s Full Response

In addition to condolences to the families of the victims and the announcement of the immediate party house ban, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky laid out three ways the company would change as a result of the shooting, as well as named Vice President of Trust Margaret Richardson as the head of a team that would oversee a 10-day review to accelerate the development and implementation of the new guidelines.

Chesky says the company will expand its manual screening efforts to better root out high-risk reservations, taking immediate action against uses and hosts who violate guest policies by removing them from the Airbnb service. Speaking to the LA Times, Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit has revealed that the listing and the person who rented it have both been removed from the site following last Thursday’s events.

Chesky also mentioned the creation of a “party house rapid response team,” which would presumably be responsible for flagging and stopping situations like Orinda from happening in the future, though Airbnb has yet to lay out how exactly they plan to do that.