Apologies in advance if this drudges up traumatic memories of sleepless nights and unsavory odors, but we need to talk about bad neighbors for a moment.
Perhaps you’ve dealt with them.
Neighbors who regularly cook with garlic and toot on vuvuzelas.
Neighbors whose weekend get-togethers more closely resemble Burning Man than a suburban backyard BBQ.
Neighbors who are loud, rowdy, inconsiderate and maybe even a wee bit sadistic.
With the rise of the sharing economy, there’s a chance that these bad-mannered, hard-partying neighbors aren’t even your neighbors but paying guests who have taken advantage of an absentee Airbnb host.
It happens. And it some cities, it seems to happen a lot.
Now, Airbnb is looking to further crack down on rented party houses through a new feature that enables beleaguered neighbors to air their complaints about unruly non-neighbors via an online form.
As noted by Bloomberg, it’s unclear at this point if said forms will be made public, if the names of the snitching neighbors will be required/revealed or if there will be some sort of three-strikes-and-you're-out type of penalization system.
It's also not clear if the neighbor complaint function will revolve more around tattling on disrespectful guests or on neglectful hosts whose homes have more or less been repurposed into for-hire party pads. Ostensibly, fed-up neighbors can comment on both oblivious hosts and obnoxious guests.
The neighbor-driven online feedback form feature was unveiled and is being launched first in Japan, Airbnb's fastest-growing market. In the coming weeks, it will introduced globally to all 190 countries where the hugely popular peer-to-peer lodging platform operates. Japan, which is in the midst of a tourism boom that’s lead to a scarcity of a traditional hotel rooms, is home to two of Airbnb’s top 10 “Wish Listed” destinations: Okinawa Prefecture and the city of Kyoto.
It’s worth pointing out the staggering density of Japanese cities — housing is generally packed and stacked tight. That being said, if you’re an out-of-towner looking to party late and party hard in a rented Airbnb property in a Japanese city, chances are the neighbors will hear you. And not be happy with you.
“One of the most important issues facing the sharing economy is how the people choosing to take part in it co-exist with those that aren’t. Our first step in this direction is to give neighbors the opportunity to comment or complain," explained Yasuyuki Tanabe, country manager for Airbnb Japan, at a government-hosted forum earlier this month where other initiatives such as a system for "rapidly relaying information about disasters or disease outbreaks" were also addressed.
An Airbnb spokesperson elaborates to the Verge:
We are proud to have built a respectful and compassionate community. Most Airbnb hosts are sharing the home they live in and we give them tools they need to only welcome respectful travelers. If issues do arise, we work with our community to try and resolve them. In the next month we are planning to start offering a new feature on our website that will enable neighbors to register a complaint directly to our customer service team for follow up. We will have more details when we formally launch the product in the coming weeks.
As mentioned by the Airbnb spokesperson, there are existing tools in place that help hosts avoid bad eggs.
Unlike with a hotel where all that a guest needs to book a room online is a valid credit card, there’s a “getting to know you” phase between Airbnb host and potential guest before a listing can be officially booked. (The Instant Book option, however, bypasses these pre-approval interactions). And not only can guests peruse reviews of listings before hitting the "request" button — hosts can also view ratings and reviews of the guests themselves submitted by previous hosts. A shining review from a previous host serves partly as an incentive to, well, behave.
What's more, the website's Verified ID process requires potential guests to connect their profiles to a Facebook, Linkedin or Google account and/or upload a picture of a government-issued identification card.
And, of course, Airbnb hosts are encouraged to develop party and/or guest policies as part of the established house rules for their listing(s). In addition to prohibiting ragers, keggers, orgies and the like, Airbnb house rules can run the gamut from smoking bans to more specific requests. For example, the site’s most all-time most popular listing, a mushroom-capped cabin near Santa Cruz, California, asks guests to kindly refrain from sleeping with “tooth or skin whitening materials” as they stain the pillowcases and sheets.
If a host has any reservations about potential guests — perhaps interests listed in their profile include Jagermeister and fireworks — they can simply decline a booking request.
In addition to the new complaint feature, there's an existing toll-free neighbor hotline reserved for neighbors of Airbnb-listed properties.
You see, most tourists visiting the Big Easy with the sole purpose of letting the good times roll (and then some) have traditionally remained confined to the French Quarter. After all, that's where the party is.
This has all changed with Airbnb.The service, a highly contentious and, for now, unregulated, presence in the city, has helped spread the party atmosphere to more buttoned-up residential areas.
“Guests vomit on our cars, pee on our cars, throw up in our yard, throw trash in our yard, rip out our flowers,” laments New Orleans resident Brittanie Bryant to the Associated Press. Bryant is so disgusted with the “bachelor parties at the townhouse-turned-hotel next door” that she and her husband have considered moving.
On the flip side, Airbnb and other vacation rental websites have enabled New Orleans residents, particularly artists and those still rebounding from Hurricane Katrina, to generate extra income by renting out spare rooms or their entire homes. “This is how we can afford to pay the taxes. I’m not getting rich off this,” says Baba Ken Amen, an Airbnb host who rents out his “Pontchartrain Park Paradise” with travelers.
Supporters of Airbnb in New Orleans claim that, despite occasional neighborly complaints involving noise and bodily fluids, short-term vacation rentals has been nothing but beneficial to the city's largely tourism-driven economy. Airbnb claims that its rental properties contribute $140 million to the city's economy annually.
And although it's not an issue specific to New Orleans, critics of Airbnb in numerous cities including San Francisco and New York believe that the website has contributed to skyrocketing rental rates and forced residents out of their longtime neighborhoods by high-priced boarding houses for visiting hipsters.