The music was blaring, the bar overflowing and the air thick with weed smoke. Armed security with long guns stood guard. It was a Saturday night in February and about 300 people were partying at a nearly 500-square-foot Airbnb in rural Ohio. Then the cops arrived.
As Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s deputies rolled in, revelers locked the doors. Fighting broke out, according to police reports. Someone threw a can of Red Bull at a cop. People fled. In the chaos, a partygoer refused to cooperate and reportedly got into a car to flee and punched a deputy.
Airbnb permanently banned parties in 2022, two years after it put them on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic, but large-scale and often dangerous parties continue to plague the platform. In April 2022, at least 11 people, two of whom were teenagers who died, were shot at a 200-person house party at an Airbnb in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And in December 2022, five people were shot and one died in an Airbnb in Rochester, New York, where the group was filming a music video. The unauthorized parties have resulted in serious injury and death, damaged property and disrupted communities.
And the gatherings stretch across the United States, far from the bright lights of party cities like Austin or New Orleans. The Ohio home, just east of the state’s Amish country, is advertised as a getaway with a heated pool and space for family activities, such as “games, quilting, and scrapbooking.” It sits on a hill in a rural community of just under 100,000 people equidistant from Columbus, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. There is a nature reserve, some farms and a camp nearby.
Hundreds of reviews have left the house with a rating of 4.97 stars out of 5. But with just a few clicks, this rural idyll turned into a dangerous rager.
As the parties continue, Airbnb says it has stepped up its efforts to thwart them. The Airbnb party ban may date back to the pandemic, but problematic guests are as old as Airbnb itself. In October 2019, the issue reached a tipping point when a mass shooting at an Airbnb in an affluent suburb of San Francisco left five people dead. Airbnb announced the launch of a 24/7 “Neighbor Hotline” soon after, saying it would work harder to screen high-risk reservations and verify listings.
Airbnb is now conducting background checks on guests in the US and India. Beginning in June, all Airbnb guests and primary hosts must undergo an identity verification process using a photo ID that matches the information on their profile. Airbnb says it may also take names, phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth or a social security number and link it to third-party databases.
Those screening processes follow previous preventative measures, including restrictions on hosting to some under-25s, and limiting the number of Airbnb guests to 16 (although stays that can accommodate more than 16 may do so again). Airbnb’s booking software looks at a guest’s previous reviews and booking history with Airbnb, the length of their trip, how far they live from the listing, and whether they want to book on a weekend or weekday to flag potential partygoers. The system’s checks on reservations are heightened during holiday weekends, the company says. Yet critics argue parties are still happening, people are finding loopholes and protections aren’t enough — and that strong, local regulation is needed to keep people safe.