KPRC 2 Investigates: Airbnb adopts 'anti-party' technology – KPRC Click2Houston


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Joel Eisenbaum, Investigative Reporter
Joel Eisenbaum, Investigative Reporter
HOUSTON – With increasing pressure coming from local municipalities, including outright bans of short-term rental properties, Airbnb is motivated to find a solution to the problem of some of their rental houses being bad neighbors.
“It was just nonstop parties. Every weekend there was a party. Fourth of July weekend, the cops had to come and clear out 350 people,” said Michael Aselin.
Aselin lived next to an Airbnb rental home in Houston’s Westview Terrace subdivision before moving to another city with stricter short-term rental regulations.
In response to growing problems similar to what Aselin experienced, in Aug. 2020, Airbnb announced a temporary ban on all parties and events at properties advertised and rented through its short-term rental reservation site.
“When the pandemic hit, as many bars and clubs closed or restricted their occupancy, we began to see some people taking partying behavior to rented homes, including through Airbnb,” the company wrote in a June press release.
In June, the company announced the policy was now permanent.
The next question was how to enforce the ban.
The short-term rental giant proclaims it has come up with a solution.
Airbnb now uses a combination of metrics to determine whether a renter is likely to throw a party at the rental home, including but not limited to; history of positive reviews, length of time guest has been on Airbnb, length of trip, distance to the listing, and day of the week.
Airbnb reports that the technology is designed to prevent the reservation if a combination of metrics flags the renter.
Similar technology is designed to prevent renters under 25 from securing a short-term rental through Airbnb’s reservation system.
Clear Lake Shores, a small city in Galveston County near Kemah, recently adopted an ordinance that bans any new short-term rentals in the municipality.
The 20 or so that were registered prior to the ban are grandfathered under the law.
But city leaders are of the opinion that until a longer-term solution can be worked out, the best short-term policy is to ban so-called “STRs” altogether.
“It’s important to get in front of this and get our ordinance, make sure it’s legal, and have an ordinance that’s in place and strong to put a stop to this,” said Mayor Kurt Otten.
The ban makes it a violation of city ordinance for an individual homeowner, or corporation, to rent a home in the municipality for a period of fewer than 30 days.
In Galveston, where short-term rentals dot almost every street, owners are required to pay a fee to register their properties, display that registration at the property, submit reports (monthly or quarterly, depending on revenue), and remit city hotel tax.
Registration is not the same as policing activity as some neighbors will point out.
But Galveston certainly does more to regulate the industry than Houston.
Unlike, the City of Houston, the City of Galveston has even dedicated webspace to the issue at
Houston, which has almost 12,000 short-term rentals, requires nothing at all. There are really no laws or regulations specifically aimed at monitoring short-term rental activity. Instead, the city relies on individual neighborhoods to regulate the activity via HOA bylaws, covenants, and deed restrictions.
Aselin believes cities have a duty to protect citizens from those who put their neighbors in jeopardy, in order to run a business in a residential area.
“It’s a public safety issue, and their responsibility to maintain the safety of the public,” said Aselin.
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