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CityMetric – Airbnb’s coronavirus crisis may be good news for renters in expensive cities

May 28, 2020

Like many of us, Airbnb is not having a good year.

Earlier this May, the company laid off nearly 2,000 employees, or approximately 25% of its workforce.

In an attempt to save an additional $800 million this year, Airbnb also gave its top executives a 50% pay cut and suspended its marketing activity.

Plans for an upcoming IPO — which was set to happen later this year — might also be cut short.

 

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LA Times -Raging house party amid coronavirus ends when man shoots himself in the groin, police say

May 17, 2020

Larger gatherings are still prohibited under strict coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

But that didn’t stop a raging house party Saturday night in the Hollywood Hills that ended when, police say, a man accidentally shot himself in the groin.

Officers received a complaint of a loud party at 1410 Miller Drive at about 11 p.m., said Los Angeles Police Lt. Mark Chong.

When they responded, they found that more than 100 people were gathered at a short-term-rental property that appeared to have been reserved for the occasion, he said.

The officers heard a single gunshot and called for backup units, Chong said. An investigation revealed that a man had been shot in his groin area. The wound is believed to have been accidentally self-inflicted.

The man was taken to a hospital. His injuries were not life-threatening, Chong said.

Police were continuing to investigate the incident.

Gatherings of any size are prohibited under stay-at-home orders issued by both Los Angeles County and the state, rules intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But despite those restrictions, Los Angeles police have been receiving complaints about gatherings that appear to violate the order.

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Wired – Is this the end of Airbnb?

April 22, 2020

Brian Chesky is no stranger to big lifts. The 38-year-old former bodybuilder and Airbnb CEO has, in the space of 11 years, hauled his property rental dream from a single air mattress to a multi-billion dollar startup success story. But as hosts rage and debt piles up, the huge weight of the coronavirus pandemic might be too much for Chesky to bear.

The numbers are devastating. According to AirDNA, an online rental analytics firm, new bookings on Airbnb are down 85 per cent; cancellation rates are close to 90 per cent. Revenue generated by Airbnb’s platform in March was down 25 per cent year-on-year, wiping out $1 billion in bookings. With much of the world still on lockdown, those numbers are unlikely to pick up anytime soon. For some, Airbnb’s folly is a potential fortune. In Prague, officials are using the pandemic to try and regain control over the burgeoning short-term rental market that has decimated the supply of housing available to local residents. Other cities may soon follow suit.

Hosts are calling it the Airbnb apocalypse. But it’s more akin to an enema. Airbnb maintains that it’s “powered by local hosts”, but the reality is quite different. Yes, there are many hosts on Airbnb who live in the properties they list on the platform. But, in many markets, including the entire of the United States, the number of “professional” hosts seemingly outnumbers those listing on Airbnb to earn a bit of extra cash from their cosy spare room. According GlobalData, an analytics firm, Airbnb could lose a “significant portion” of its host community as a result of the pandemic. These “professional” hosts, the scourge of local residents and housing officials, could soon be flushed out of Airbnb in their thousands.

 

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CNBC – Airbnb feels the crunch as governments ban short-term rentals

April 16, 2020

From Maine to the Coachella Valley in California, state and local governments have passed measures to prevent property managers from booking short-term rentals through websites like Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking.com.

These measures are necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to government officials who spoke with CNBC. But hosts say the restrictions can be confusing, and they are putting additional pressure on small business-owners who rely on short-term bookings to cover their mortgages and bills.

For Airbnb, these government restrictions are the latest obstacle in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the entire travel industry. Last month, Airbnb told its employees that it would institute a hiring freeze, suspend its marketing, cut executives’ salary and that it did not expect to give out bonuses for 2020.

Heading into the year, the San Francisco tech company was eyeing an entry into the public markets. The company had lined up bankers to lead the offering, which would test whether Airbnb could live up to its $31 billion private market valuation from 2017. Instead, the company is raising $2 billion in new debt funding at a valuation of $18 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Airbnb lost $322 million over the first nine months of last year, after reporting a $200 million profit in 2018, as it ramped up spending.

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Bloomberg – Cancel Your Trip Due to Coronavirus? Airbnb Refuses Scores of Refunds

March 11, 2020

Josh Ostroff had a difficult choice to make: Cancel a trip to Japan in March that he’d been promising his 10-year-old son for three years, or ignore travel warnings and put his family’s health at risk amid the coronavirus outbreak.

He decided to cancel the trip.

When the Toronto-based family asked for their money back, citing the Canadian government’s warning to “exercise a high degree of caution” in Japan, they received a refund from their hotels and a voucher from the airline. Airbnb Inc. said no.

The San Francisco-based startup said the family didn’t qualify for a refund under its new “extenuating circumstances” coronavirus policy, which only applies to China, Italy and South Korea. The home-share company’s official response to the family refers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “If the CDC’s precautions are followed, you could safely travel to Japan.”

Ostroff was shocked. “I repeatedly asked about bringing a child into this situation and they did not answer,” he said. “I feel like Airbnb is being recklessly irresponsible here.”

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NBC Bay Area – Airbnb Refused Refund for Coronavirus Quarantined Cruise Passengers

March 10, 2020

Airbnb has agreed to refund two customers quarantined on the Grand Princess in Oakland after initially denying the travelers their money back, saying they needed more documentation.

After supposedly docking in San Francisco, the couple was on their way to finish the last leg of their trip to Barcelona, Spain, where the Airbnb was located. When they learned they weren’t docking, they had their niece, Dionne Paul, who was not on the ship, cancel the Airbnb reservation because she booked it. On March 8, the San Francisco-based company initially denied the full refund saying the guests needed to provide additional confirmation proving their quarantine status and the length of it.

According to Airbnb’s policy, “no documentation is required for [certain] circumstance,” for instance epidemic disease or illness, although the case will likely require special review.

Through Paul, the travelers already provided Airbnb their cruise boarding pass and an official letter from the cruise company confirming the quarantine.

“I was just very disappointed. You talk to a claim handler and to not feel listened to, let alone the claims person never says ‘I’m sorry this is happening,’ I just felt like a cog in the wheel,” Paul said.

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The Mac Observer – Airbnb’s Secret Algorithms Plunder Your Social Media

February 27, 2020

Airbnb uses a secret algorithm to figure out how trustworthy you are, and it mines your social media for sex work, porn, drugs, alcohol, swear words, and more (via Vice).

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint [PDF] to the FTC, arguing that Airbnb’s algorithm is unfair and deceptive under the FTC Act and Fair Credit Act due to its secretive nature. On its website, Airbnb says that every reservation is “scored for risk” but offers no further explanation.

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Forbes – The Airbnb Effect On Housing And Rent 

February 21, 2020

Analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan American think tank, found that the economic costs of Airbnb likely outweigh the benefits:

‘While the introduction and expansion of Airbnb into cities around the world carries large potential economic benefits and costs, the costs to renters and local jurisdictions likely exceed the benefits to travelers and property owners.’

The ‘Airbnb effect’ is to some extent remarkably similar to gentrification in that it slowly increases the value of an area to the detriment of the indigenous residents, many of whom are pushed out due to financial constraints.

Cities, popular ones especially, seem to fare the worst. In major cities such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Edinburgh, and Los Angeles, studies on the ‘Airbnb effect’ have found that over-tourism facilitated by platforms such as Airbnb negatively impacts on house prices and communities.

The short-term rental sector is just as affected. Research conduced by the Harvard Business Review across the US found that Airbnb is having a detrimental impact on housing stock as it encourages landlords to move their properties out from out of the long-term rental and for-sale markets and into the short-term rental market.

A separate U.S. study found that a 1% increase in Airbnb listings leads to a 0.018% increase in rents and a 0.026% increase in house prices. It might not seem like much on the surface but there’s a cost creep for those looking to rent long-term or buy.

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The Real Deal – Los Angeles No. 1 in country for Airbnb, other short stay rentals 

February 18, 2020

The sheer number of actively rented short stay units surpassed that of the New York City market, which CBRE tallied to have 20,972 units, a 1.8 percent nudge from quarter-four 2018.

Los Angeles (and New York, for that matter) has sought to curb short-term rentals, whose reputed ills include skewing local rental markets and thereby diminishing affordable housing, and causing safety (and nuisance) concerns for neighbors who never bargained on living by a rotating cast of travelers.

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Vox – Why Airbnb is suddenly struggling to make money

February 12, 2020

Airbnb has dealt with a string of safety issues, everything from racism to prostitution to gun violence in recent years. Last October, Vice uncovered a nationwide scam that exploited guests by switching their housing last-minute and gouging them for higher prices. Ahead of its IPO, Airbnb has been ramping up safety efforts on its platform in the hope of preventing some of these issues and the ensuing bad press, but it remains unclear how soon it can shake the associated stigma.

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Marin Independent Journal – Mill Valley residents seek short-term rental reform

February 9, 2020

Fifty-two residents in unincorporated Mill Valley are calling for changes in county regulations following accusations of excessive noise and fireworks at several short-term rentals.

“We have had a major problem here on our streets,” said Jeff Polick, who lives on Loring Avenue in Tamalpais Valley.

After issuing a letter of complaint to the rentals’ owner, Happy Place 820 LLC, a group of residents is scheduled to meet with Marin County supervisors on March 12. They will discuss adding specific restrictions to the county’s ordinance concerning properties rented through Airbnb and similar services.

Supervisor Kate Sears said she is looking forward to discussing solutions with the neighbors.

“At its inception, the County’s short term rental regulation was set up as a two-year pilot program, ending this summer,” Sears wrote in an email. “As a result, the neighbors’ constructive advice about what worked and what didn’t is both welcome and well timed.”

The scheduled meeting was spurred by a letter sent to the county’s code enforcement division and the property owners. The letter, written by attorney Daniel Schwartz and backed by the 52 residents, requests that the county shut down the short-term rental property on 391 Loring Ave. or force its owners to rent the property long term.

The letter alleges that the corporation is violating county code by renting out entire homes with more than five bedrooms in an area zoned as a single-family district. It also alleges that the owners violated an ordinance that prohibits loud and unnecessary noise between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“Most recently, on August 17, 2019, guests of the 391 Loring hosted a large party at which a group of rappers and a DJ performed well past the 11 p.m. cutoff for loud noise,” according to the letter.

Polick said this type of short-term rental could have caused another tragedy like the one in Orinda, where five people were shot to death during a Halloween party at an Airbnb rental.

“It’s run like a party house for large groups,” he said.

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Los Angeles Times – Child finds deputy’s loaded gun and badge at Airbnb in Tahoe 

January 14, 2020

After filing a police report, the family of nine looked for another place to stay for the night.

“My kids were pretty distraught,” said Segura, who identified himself as a gun owner. “There were like so many questions that came up on our mind. Why is it here? Is it stolen? Is someone going to come back here and look for it?”

Segarra said Airbnb offered the family $250 to rent a room elsewhere, but they had no luck finding a suitable place, even after driving around until 2 a.m. Instead the family camped out in the rental’s living room.

“We wanted to start off the new year for the kids,” he said. “Now this is their memory. It’s kind of crazy.”

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Los Angeles Times – Airbnb and similar sites don’t show fees upfront. People are mad about it

January 9, 2020

Juan Herrera, a graduate student from San Diego, was searching the Airbnb booking site for a place to rent in Los Angeles for New Year’s Eve when he was surprised to see that several extra fees were added to the nightly rate, pushing the total cost of the trip out of his price range.

In addition to the nightly rates of $100 to $120 for a private room, nearly every place he considered renting charged a “service fee” of about 13% of the pretax rate and a one-time “cleaning fee” of about $45. It prompted him to instead book a comparably priced hotel room.

“I definitely felt surprised and preferred to book a regular hotel because I do not feel now that Airbnb is transparent with prices,” Herrera said.

Properties listed for rent on Airbnb routinely charge cleaning and other fees, some substantial, but such extra costs seldom are factored into the nightly rate that turns up in the initial lodging search, according to an analysis of listings by The Times.

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Los Angeles Times – Airbnb queried by Congress over listings that violate local laws 

November 22, 2019

U.S. lawmakers are asking Airbnb Inc. to provide information about hosts that list short-term rentals on the site who don’t comply with local laws and violate the company’s own policies.

In a letter to Airbnb Chief Executive Brian Chesky, six members of Congress said they are particularly interested in recent media reports that have highlighted the proliferation of limited liability corporations on the home-sharing platform. For example, the lawmakers cited an article in the New York Times that reported that listings by one operation, out of compliance with company policy, were able to generate revenue of almost $21 million in three years.

Deceptive and misleading listings have also led to customers being scammed by “hosts” who abuse Airbnb’s cancellation policies, according to the letter, which was signed by Democratic Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Barbara Lee of California and Robin Kelly of Illinois, among others.

“While we appreciate that you have frequently stated that Airbnb has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy with respect to these types of host behaviors, it also seems clear that you have failed to authenticate host identities in a way that would prevent bad actors from continuing to rent through your platform under false identities after being banned,” the letter stated.

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WCBI – Landlord Accused of Evicting People to List Apartments on Airbnb

November 7, 2019

A Los Angeles landlord illegally evicted tenants from their rent-controlled apartments and listed them on Airbnb, a lawsuit filed this month alleges. The suit accuses real estate developer Wiseman Management of tearing down rent-controlled housing to build luxury developments, depriving “immigrant, low-income, disabled, and elderly apartment tenants of their legal rights in order to put money in its own pocket.”

Tearing down rent-controlled housing to build new developments is legal in Los Angeles. But the conversion of long-term affordable housing into hyper-profitable short-term rentals is a growing problem in cities from New York to San Francisco, where housing advocates often clash with home-sharing apps.

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HuffPost – Airbnb Host Kicks Out Black Guests After Calling Them ‘Monkeys’ 

June 4, 2019

A group of black friends said they felt dehumanized after their Airbnb host called them a racist epithet and kicked them out of her Manhattan townhouse in the middle of the night without due cause.

A cellphone video of the Saturday exchange shows the host, identified only as Kate on her Airbnb profile, referring to the five men as “monkeys.”

She appeared to take issue with the number of people who arrived at her home, claiming her listing indicated a maximum group size of four. The friends push back in the clip, pointing out that her listing said the home slept four people plus one person on a sofa.

“Which monkey is gonna stay on the couch?” the woman shot back.

One of the friends, Kenneth Simpson, told The Washington Post the racist exchange left him feeling “very dehumanized.”

“I thought, is this where we are today? We made a point that we’re educated, working professionals. And it doesn’t even matter if you’re an educated person, because no one deserves to be called a monkey and be dehumanized for no reason,” Simpson said.

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NBC Los Angeles – Shooting at North Hollywood AirBnB House Party Injures Seven 

June 10, 2018

An overnight shooting at a house party in North Hollywood sent seven people to the hospital, officials said.

Police describe a chaotic scene when they arrived at the 12700 block of Tiara Street after a disturbance call just before 1 a.m. When officers got to the scene, multiple people were running away as the sound of gunshots pierced through the darkness of the night, said LAPD Lt. Bob Toledo.

Initially, authorities said five people were shot and two others were injured while running away from the bullets, but Toledo said it was actually six people who were struck by the gunfire, with one other person suffering injuries while running away.

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USA Today – This couple endured a nightmare Airbnb experience in Los Angeles 

October 9, 2018

A Boston couple say they got the scare of their lives during an Airbnb stay in Los Angeles, ending with broken glass, police helicopters and thousands of dollars lost.

Medical residents Jaleesa Jackson and Chiedozie Uwandu thought their stay at an Airbnb property would be relaxing, but it turned out to be a terrifying experience, they said in an interview with the Boston Globe.

The two traveled to sunny Los Angeles in June, staying at the guesthouse of a so-called “super host” with the short-term rental company.
That night, a man came crashing through the window of the bedroom where Jackson and Uwandu slept. That man was the same Airbnb “super host,” who broke free from Uwandu’s hold and escaped.

The pair recalled police helicopters flew overhead, and officers eventually brought the Airbnb host, JJ, back to the property. The couple said they discovered that JJ rented the guesthouse from an elderly woman and that he was not authorized to rent the space.

Jackson and Uwandu said in the interview that they checked into a nearby Hilton after the experience, spending $2,300 for the room, parking and other expenses. They said they asked for Airbnb for $5,000 to compensate their wild stay, but the company offered them $2,500 and five therapy sessions instead.
 
Even actress Gabrielle Union weighed in on the too-bad-to-be-true experience the couple endured.

“This is a nightmare and @Airbnb needs to do WAY more to protect their guests and make things right when they go so wrong,” Union tweeted on Tuesday. “This could have ended alot worse.”

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New York Daily News – Airbnb guest charged with sexual assault after climbing naked into bed of host’s 7-year-old daughter 

An Airbnb guest was arrested after a Minnesota host found the man naked in bed with his young daughter.

The homeowner, who was not identified, called police Sunday night to report that Derrick Aaron Kinchen had allegedly tried to sexually assault his 7-year-old daughter…

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Washington Post – An Airbnb guest was late checking out, so the host shoved her — down a staircase, she said

A confrontation over check-out time turned violent after an Airbnb host allegedly pushed a woman down a flight of stairs in Amsterdam.

Local reports said the suspect was arrested and detained by police. Prosecutors are considering charging the property owner with attempted murder, according to a Reuters report. Sibahle Nkumbi was traveling with two other women and South African artist Zanele Muholi, who shared video of the incident on social media…

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SFist – Woman Refused Access To Airbnb House At California Ski Resort Because She Is Asian

25-year-old law student Dyne Suh booked a cabin on Airbnb in Running Springs, California, near Big Bear Lake, for her and her fiancé on President’s Day Weekend. She says that she had booked the property about a month before her trip, and then corresponded with the owner to ask if she could add two more people to the reservation, and was told that was fine. But as she and her friends approached the area on a night of heavy snow on February 17, she reached out again to the owner, who swiftly canceled her stay and plainly told her it was because she was Asian. When Suh protested and told her she would have her kicked off the Airbnb platform for racism, the woman replied “Go ahead” and “This is why we have Trump.”…

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CNET.com – Airbnb guest files lawsuit after alleged sexual assault by host

An Airbnb guest is suing the home-rental company for failing to conduct a thorough screening of a host she says attacked her during a stay at his property.
Leslie Lapayowker alleges she was sexually assaulted by Carlos Del Olmo when she stayed at the studio apartment attached to his Los Angeles home in July 2016, according to a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court. In the suit, Lapayowker says Del Olmo made inappropriate comments, was taking drugs and demanded that she engage in sexual activity with him. He also grabbed Lapayowker, kissed her and exposed himself, according to the suit….

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LA Times – Airbnb and other short-term rentals worsen housing shortage, critics say

As short-term rental websites such as Airbnb explode in popularity in Southern California, a growing number of homeowners and landlords are caving to the economics. A study released Wednesday from Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a labor-backed advocacy group, estimates that more than 7,000 houses and apartments have been taken off the rental market in metro Los Angeles for use as short-term rentals. In parts of tourist-friendly neighborhoods such as Venice and Hollywood, Airbnb listings account for 4% or more of all housing units, according to a Times analysis of data from Airbnb’s website…

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Los Angeles Times – Residents want L.A. to do more to enforce short-term rental regulations

As Airbnb and other platforms make it easier to rent out rooms or whole homes for short stays, the debate over regulating such rentals has revolved around what kinds of rules Los Angeles should enshrine. But for many Angelenos, the bigger question is whether the rules will have any teeth…

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LA Weekly – Is Airbnb Making L.A.’s Housing Crisis Worse?

A new paper published in the Harvard Law and Policy Review argues that short-term rentals, like the kind on offer at Airbnb, are exacerbating L.A.’s housing crisis. The paper’s author, graduate student Dayne Lee, found that Airbnb “decreases the supply of housing and spurs displacement, gentrification and segregation.”…

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Los Angeles Business Journal – Airbnb Intensifying L.A.’s Housing Crisis?

In the wake of several recent studies concluding L.A. is the least affordable city in the country for home ownership and has the ninth highest rents, a new paper published in the Harvard Law and Policy Review argues that short-term rentals, like the kind available through Airbnb, are exacerbating L.A.’s housing crisis….

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Curbed LA – The Nine Neighborhoods That Make All the Airbnb Money in LA

Residents in trendy neighborhoods like Venice and Silver Lake have been complaining about Airbnbs for years now—they say the company makes it too easy for landlords to illegally turn their rental units into hotel rooms, driving up rents and making residential neighborhoods into tourist zones. Airbnb has always refused to release any exact information on its units, but now a study from the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy has dug up the facts and it’s more dramatic than anyone could have guessed: just nine LA neighborhoods account for 73 percent of the money Airbnb makes in the region. And rent in those neighborhoods is growing much faster than in other places…

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Los Angeles Times – L.A. plan would demand Airbnb hand over information so city can track down illegal rentals

Rules proposed Friday to regulate Airbnb and other vacation-rental websites in Los Angeles could set the stage for a political showdown, with the city seeking information from the companies in order to track down illegal rentals…

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The Independent – Los Angeles landlords using Airbnb can make a year’s income in 60 days, fuelling fears of housing crisis, says report

The Airbnb boom means some landlords in Los Angeles can make more money letting their homes for two months than they can with a traditional year-long lease, according to a new report.
It is the latest example of the way in which peer-to-peer services are disrupting longstanding commercial models and comes in a city which is trying to cap the use of Airbnb for fear short-term lets are contributing to a housing crisis…