Airbnb to debut 'rapid response team' after fatal shooting

The short-term rental company's CEO announced an array of new safety measures

In the wake of a shooting at an Airbnb listing that left five dead, Airbnb has announced new measures designed to improve safety and trust across its short-term rental platform.

They include a rapid response team for fielding complaints from neighbors and human reviews of “high-risk” listings.

CEO Brian Chesky wrote in a Wednesday email to employees that all Airbnb listings will be verified for accuracy of photos, listing details and quality standards. Every home and host will have been reviewed by Dec. 15,  2020, “with the objective of 100% verification,” he said.

Also, Airbnb is introducing a “guest guarantee” on Dec. 15, 2020. If a listing does not meet Airbnb’s accuracy standards when a guest checks in, the company will book the guest another listing of at least equal value, or refund them the cost of the rental.

The platform said it would also debut a 24/7 “Neighbor Hotline” by Dec. 31 of this year. It will be staffed by a rapid response team for neighbors to call with concerns about Airbnb rentals. Two former high-profile police chiefs will assist with the project, according to Chesky.

To help prevent disturbances in the first place, Airbnb will augment the hotline with manual screenings of “high-risk” reservations, starting on Dec. 15. Airbnb’s risk-detection software flags these bookings based on factors such as listing size and stay duration.

Trust is “the real energy source that drives Airbnb,” Chesky wrote.

“But recently, events by bad actors on our platform took advantage of that trust, including at a home in Orinda, California. We intend to do everything possible to learn from these incidents when they occur.”

Chesky was referring to a recent Halloween party hosted at an Airbnb listing where a shooting took place that left five dead. The guest who booked the home for that listing had lied about her intentions, reportedly saying that she wanted the unit so her family could escape wildfire smoke, USA Today reported. In response to the tragedy, the town of Orinda, where the incident occurred, is poised to ban short-term rentals that aren’t occupied by their owners.

Incidents at listings aren’t only an issue for Airbnb. The same night as the massacre in Orinda, a drive-by shooting took place at a separate Halloween party in a Phoenix home owned by iBuyer Opendoor. Five were injured.

Email Teke Wiggin.