Columbus adds criminal background check to host licensing scheme

US: The city of Columbus, Ohio is adding a criminal background check to its licensing scheme for possible hosts.

While the city had previously required background checks, they allowed various platforms to conduct them in house. However, city officials said that these results would “vary considerably”.

Now, after a Monday City Council meeting, hosts will be required to go through state checks. Those seeking to let out their properties now need to send fingerprints and additional information to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The intent of the change is to help protect possible visitors from either dangerous or sub-par hosts. According to The Columbus Dispatch, over 2,200 listings may be affected across platforms.

City councilman Rob Dorans, co-sponsor of the change, said: “From a public-safety standpoint, we want to make sure that folks have passed a background check, to make sure that potential renters come to the city, utilise the short-term rental, are not putting themselves in a bad position.”

The shift will apply to not only hosts but possible property managers and maintenance workers. The information will go to the city’s director of public safety, where certain violations would give them cause for rejection.

Certain platforms are improving their own host and guest monitoring capabilities. Airbnb recently introduced trait analyser software, in addition to acquiring background checking tool Trooly.

Though the platform is improving, it still has issues: in December, developer Michael Harold sued Airbnb for damages caused to his Chelsea home during a party.

The company also reportedly rejected their safety team’s advice to require government ID in order to use the platform, raising concerns about its commitment to safety.

Cities around the world have taken note- Paris, Boston, and even Niagara Falls have all made changes to their short-term rental legislation recently. Meanwhile, Columbus will start the implementation of criminal background checks, the strategy may be appealing to cities looking to improve safety in the fledgling industry.