US: Vacation rental online marketplace Vrbo has banned travellers from staying for one night in any of its listed rental properties in Arizona from January onwards, in a move to curb large gatherings and so-called “Covid parties”.
Complaints surrounding vacation rentals and their disruption to local neighbourhoods dates back to long before the Covid pandemic, when Senate Bill 1350 preventing cities and towns in the state from banning rentals was passed back in 2016, however the coronavirus has only exacerbated the tensions between local residents and home-sharing platforms such as Vrbo.
Neighbours themselves have complained about disturbances such as weekly parties and unruly behaviour from loud guests disrupting their home lives.
The Expedia Group brand wrote in a letter last week to Arizona governor Doug Ducey that it would block any rentals in the state from being rented out for one night only, effective from January for an unspecified number of months.
The letter, written by Expedia Group vice president of government and corporate affairs, Amanda Pedigo, read: “Expedia Group will be developing long-term solutions to help eliminate large gatherings that violate homeowners’ and / or Vrbo’s rules after January. Our focus will be on understanding and addressing potential issues during the reservation process and the stay, and having systems in place to identify bad actors after the fact to prevent future incidents.”
Pedigo added that, as a company “built on family travel”, it took concerns and feedback from lawmakers and neighbours “seriously”.
It is understood that Vrbo is not implementing a nationwide ban on one-night rentals, and the move was primarily to prevent properties being used as “party houses” for large groups of people, especially so during a pandemic when social distancing is being encouraged.
Vrbo follows in Airbnb’s footsteps in restricting the use of vacation rental properties for parties and other large-scale events.
In August, Airbnb issued a global blanket ban on all parties and events being held in properties listed on its platform and capped the number of occupants that can be present in a property at any one time at 16. Prior to that, it had announced a trial restricting guests in the UK, France and Spain under the age of 25 from booking entire homes in an area close to where they live, in order to clamp down on antisocial behaviour and unauthorised rowdy parties in various neighbourhoods.
That was in response to a high-profile shooting incident in Orinda, near San Francisco, at a Halloween party at the back end of last year, in which five people were reported to have been shot dead. The platform pledge to verify all listings from then on and set up a 24/7 hotline for local residents to report unlawful activity.
In July, Airbnb also suspended or removed 50 short-term rental listings in Arizona that had received complaints or violated its policies concerning “unauthorised” parties and events.
Governor Ducey has been an outspoken proponent of short-term rental property owners and the industry itself since signing the Senate Bill legislation back in 2016.
His office’s spokesperson, Patrick Ptak, told The Star that Ducey had appreciated Vrbo’s decision: “While we didn’t suggest this specific change, we appreciate their proactive efforts and cautiousness during the pandemic.”