Airbnb Arbitrarily Banning Users Who’ve Done Nothing Wrong

Airbnb is banning users who it finds to be closely associated with already banned accounts due to the perceived likelihood that such people would travel to an Airbnb location with the banned user they are associated with.

By Charlene Badasie | Published


Airbnb plans to ban people closely associated with previously banned users. The decision comes as the short-term rental company tightens up safety protocols. But the new rules are slightly problematic. When someone is prohibited due to their ties with another user, they can only return to the platform if the latter successfully appeals the ban.

The other option is to prove they aren’t associated with the offending guest. Airbnb explained its reasoning to Vice, saying the company discovered that people with close tend to travel together. But the spokesperson didn’t specify when the practice began or how often it occurs. Dubbed as a necessary safety precaution, the firm said describing the rule as an association ban is an over-simplification.

But the process is slightly flawed, according to an Airbnb user named Amanda. In January, the company sent her an email saying she could no longer use the service because she was closely associated with a banned user. “If we find that you are not closely associated with a person who isn’t allowed to use Airbnb, we may restore your account,” the email via Vice said.  

Amanda decided to appeal the ban, saying she needed to book an Airbnb to attend a cheer competition to support a friend. Following careful consideration, the company said it was upholding the ban to “safeguard its community.” She was also told that the company would not be offering additional support on the case.

Speaking to Vice, Amanda explained that she used her boyfriend’s credit card to book her Airbnb. And while she doesn’t have a criminal record, her boyfriend was charged with a white-collar offense. However, the couple doesn’t share an address or bank account. The accommodation firm later reached out to the boyfriend to see if he’d like to appeal the ban.

If he were reinstated as an Airbnb user, Amanda would be too. But if the decision didn’t change, she would remain banned. That means her fate is entirely tied to her boyfriend. Additionally, association bans are not limited to situations that are the result of a background check. This is primarily due to banned folks booking under a different name.

“If someone is removed for a serious safety incident during an Airbnb reservation, we need to remove them and cancel their future reservations,” the company told Vice. The representative also explained that if someone else re-books the same reservation with the credit card number originally issued by the banned account, they will also be removed.

Airbnb has made safety a priority to combat concerns that the platform people at risk. The company previously publicized a decision prohibiting parties following several shootings and deaths. The firm has also leveraged legal action against guests who break the rules. However, the company understands that its system is imperfect.

People who feel unfairly banned are encouraged to appeal the decision. But, like Amanda’s case, the process is often frustrating. It also underscores the difficulty of keeping dangerous parties away from Airbnb short-term rental properties without irritating people who feel their own bans are unwarranted.