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Airbnb cracks down on New Year’s Eve parties in St. Louis and other cities

Jennifer Meyer's dog Gonzo poses in her dog-friendly Airbnb in Fairview Heights. She's glad to see Airbnb trying to help hosts deal with unauthorized parties.
Jennifer Meyer
Jennifer Meyer's dog Gonzo poses in her dog-friendly Airbnb in Fairview Heights. She's glad to see Airbnb trying to help hosts deal with unauthorized parties.

Airbnb is tightening restrictions on short-term bookings ahead of New Year’s Eve in cities across the country, including St. Louis.

The company is implementing restrictions on guests without a history of positive reviews that book a stay for three nights or less. The restrictions prohibit certain local and last-minute bookings and ban any single-night bookings.

Ben Breit, the head of trust and safety communications for Airbnb, said the new rules are in response to feedback from hosts, some of whom have struggled to enforce the company’s party ban that went into effect in 2020.

“What can happen with an unauthorized party? Property damage, it can be disruptive to neighbors and to neighborhoods. So we don't condone that behavior, and we don't want it,” he said.

Last New Year’s Eve, the company piloted restrictions on stays of two nights or less for guests without positive reviews. Breit said the rules deterred 800 people from booking properties in the city of St. Louis.

“We are quite sure that at least some of those folks would be great guests who just haven't yet earned those positive reviews on Airbnb, and hopefully someday they will and will not be subjected to these types of restrictions,” he said. “But in the meantime, that's a trade-off that we're willing to make in the interest of public safety and in respecting neighbors.”

Airbnb hosts in the St. Louis region have mixed feelings about the new restrictions.

On the one hand, Jennifer Meyer is glad the company is trying to help hosts combat parties. She started renting a home on the platform in Fairview Heights in August.

She has a background as a paralegal and made clear in her listing that parties aren’t allowed. But someone threw a kid’s birthday party with about four times as many guests as they said would be staying at the property.

“Thankfully, there was no alcohol consumption, no parties, no late-night loud music, but nonetheless, it was super stressful for me as a new host,” Meyer said.

She said she didn’t receive any formal complaints from neighbors after the party, but her friendly older neighbor stopped waving at her.

To minimize the risk of more parties happening, she’s since raised her rates significantly. This New Year’s Eve she’s doing a house swap with another Airbnb host, so she’s not concerned about there being any disturbances to the neighborhood.

But Meyer and other Airbnb hosts in the region do worry that the rules could be unfair to first-time guests who don’t have any reviews yet.

Abby Crawford has been an Airbnb host for 4½ years and runs three rentals in the Carondelet and Holly Hills neighborhoods in south St. Louis. She said some of her best guests have been brand-new to Airbnb.

“As soon as we got our New Year's Eve booking, I sent them a nice message reminding them they have to agree to the house rules when they book the space,” she said. “They were very open to that and very affirmative of that, so we're really not worried.”

Crawford said there are a lot of proactive steps hosts can take to reduce the risk of parties at their properties. For instance, she requires a minimum stay of two nights on the weekend and three nights during the week, and she tries to seek out traveling nurses for longer-term stays.

“I would say as a host, you're far more likely to have issues with the building itself than you are with the guests,” she said.

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
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