November 21, 2019

Watson Coleman Leads Letter Demanding Answers from Airbnb on Misleading Hosts and Listings

Washington, D.C. (November 21, 2019) — Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), along with Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Robin Kelly (D-IL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) today demanded Airbnb explain its plans to deal with deceptive limited liability corporations disguising themselves as “hosts” on the platform to market short-term rentals out of compliance with local laws and the company’s own policies. The letter, addressed to CEO Brian Chesky, also requests information about misleading listings that have left customers in poor housing conditions and seeks a meeting with Airbnb executives in the next two weeks.

“Despite Airbnb’s stated ‘One Host, One Home’ policy, media reports have raised concerns about the proliferation of limited liability corporations on your platform…deceptive and misleading listings have also led to customers being scammed by ‘hosts’ who abuse Airbnb’s cancellation policies to trick guests into unsuitable housing conditions for monetary gain. While we appreciate that you have frequently stated that Airbnb has a “zero tolerance” policy, 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 Congressmembers wrote.

The letter includes 20 questions intended to clarify Airbnb’s policies and practices, including:

  • How the company intends to define a “host,” and how the company vets its hosts;
  • How the company will enforce policy violations from hosts who mislead customers and the public about their identities or listings;
  • How the company will verify that units meet so-called “basic safety protocols;”
  • And whether the company’s efforts to categorize “high-risk reservations,” will consider age, race, gender, or other personal traits.

To see the full letter, click here.