party houses
The scene of the shootings in Orinda [Credit: The National / EPA]

Airbnb bans ‘party houses’ following fatal Halloween shootings

US: Airbnb is banning ‘party houses’ following a fatal shooting incident at a Halloween party at a California property rented through the platform, according to tweets by chief executive Brian Chesky.

Chesky posted a series of tweets on Saturday condemning the incident and said the rental platform would go ahead with plans to enhance manual screening of ‘high risk’ reservations, as well as ban guests who fail to abide by its policies on banning ‘party houses’. He added that Airbnb is forming a ‘rapid response team’ to address complaints over unauthorised parties at the earliest possible opportunity.

Chesky tweeted: “We are redoubling our efforts to combat unauthorised parties and get rid of abusive host and guest conduct, including conduct that leads to the terrible events we saw in Orinda.

“We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable,” he added.

Five people were shot dead during the incident on Thursday night in the San Francisco suburb of Orinda. No arrests have yet been made and the police have yet to disclose details on any possible motives for the attack, although it was reported that two guns were recovered from the crime scene.

The San Francisco Chronicle revealed three people, all from the Bay area of the city, died at the scene, before a fourth and fifth victim passed away later in hospital. The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office identified the deceased as Tiyon Farley [22], Omar Taylor [24], Ramon Hill Junior [23], Javin County [29] and Oshiana Tompkins [19].

It is believed that the four-bedroom property had been rented out on Airbnb by a woman who told the owner her 12 family members had asthma and were escaping smoke from a wildfire, as per a report in the Associated Press. Earlier in the week, a fire had started in Sonoma County around 60 miles north of Orinda and smoke had filtered in the air throughout the state of California.

Michael Wang, the owner of the Airbnb rental home, reportedly said he was “suspicious” of the request for a one-night stay over Halloween and reminded the group that parties were prohibited as part of their agreement, according to an unnamed source. The listing also explicitly banned weapons, smoking and marijuana.

Wang added that his wife contacted the renting party on Thursday night after complaints were made by neighbours in the suburb. The renter told Wang’s wife that only a dozen guests were present, as previously agreed, but Wang himself said he could see more people on a recording on the property’s doorbell camera.

Speaking to The Chronicle, he said: “We called the police. They were on the way to go there to stop them, but before we got there the neighbour already sent us a message saying there was a shooting.”

In a statement provided to The Guardian newspaper, Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit said his company was “urgently investigating” what had happened and had already banned the renter and removed the home altogether from the platform.

Meanwhile, California governor Gavin Newsom said the shooting had been a “horrific tragedy” and implored Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to implement national gun control laws.

Back in September, residents in the city of Bath in South West England called on the UK government to introduce new rules to stop the spread of party houses appearing in quiet neighbourhoods in the city.

At the time, The Times reported that around 90 apartments in the city were being rented out by at least seven people, compared to a reported 48 properties in 2017. One columnist from the newspaper, Libby Purves, called Airbnb “a monster that must be tamed”.

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