The STR Party Problem is now the worst it's ever been.
Earlier in July, Airbnb took "steps to prevent house parties" after an increase in Pandemic Party complaints from hosts and neighbors. These new rules haven't been enough, and have proven quite easy to skirt for crafty and cooped-up high school and college kids.
Guests have figured out to get around the new rules with fake profiles and using people from out of town to book properties for them. It's not just an Airbnb problem; reports of these incidents at STR are all over Facebook message groups as well in the news.
Some Recent Examples in the News
July 31st: 2 teens shot outside Airbnb rental where about 50 people were partying, Houston police say Link
July 25th Party at Paradise Valley short-term rental with 300 people leads to citations, police say Link
July 27th Cops spent nearly five hours breaking up party at Airbnb of over 700 people Link
July 23rd Airbnb suspends, removes listings for 50 party houses across Arizona Link
July 27th: WA Police to meet with Airbnb after huge party at Rivervale rental spirals out of control Link
July 15th: Contact tracers uncover illegal house parties at short-term rentals Link
July 27th: Call for Airbnb hosts to guard against house parties Link
My STR Property Was Targeted in July
After 2 years of very few problems with STR renters, in the last month my house was targeted by Pandemic Partiers. 3 groups openly flouted the house rules, explicitly lied to me and didn't seem to care that the listing clearly states there are exterior cameras and zero tolerance for parties. I thought that by having security deposits on Airbnb. minimum night stays, cameras, and clear rules, these young partiers would never target me. Boy, was I wrong.
2 of the groups I was able to catch on camera before the party could get out-of-control, but another group of 18 year-olds caused $1100 of damage, and I was forced to cancel on the next group in order to repair all the damage and do a deep clean. After 2 years of no issues with unsolicited parties, I was completely fooled by the picture of a smiling woman holding a baby, who told me they were using the property for a family trip. Little did I know it was a fake picture and the group was a bunch of local 18 year olds throwing a high school graduation party, complete with underage drinking, a whole in the wall, vomit, a broken table and trash everywhere. When the cleaner called me in horror, I felt so stupid that I didn't vet their profile enough, having too much confidence in humanity and Airbnb's new rules. Luckily, the Ring cameras recorded all the license plates, and I was able to use that as leverage to get them to pay for the damages.
The next weekend, I was on high-alert and explicitly told the group they weren't allowed to have any people not on the reservation on the property at any times. The group's profile said they were from a far-away state, so I rented it to them. The group agreed to the rules and adamantly told me they were only having their 6 guests on the reservation at the house. Out of paranoia, I checked the video feed at 9pm and there were 6 cars on the lawn with people piling into the house, all with in-state plates. The guest refused to answer my phone call or messages, until I turned on the house alarm and told them the police was on the way. Then they told me it was a "family party" and that everyone was leaving. A half hour later, there they are on camera sneaking back into the house. At least despite their multiple lies, this group kept it down and knew I had their license plates and evidence on camera. If I hadn't checked the camera, the party could have easily turned into a story on the news.
Here's why now is the perfect storm for unsolicited STR parties.
It's been 4+ Months since young people haven't been able to go to clubs, concerts, and big events because of Coronavirus Restrictions
Young, unemployed people have been receiving $867/week in Coronavirus Unemployment Insurance, so many irresponsibly people can now afford to rent out STRs together
After nationwide looting incidents, many of which went un-prosecuted, respect for others' private property is low
Young people are restless and have a lot of pent up energy from coronavirus restrictions
Young people like to party and don't feel threatened by the virus
Prevention Tactics from Experienced VRMs
Zafar, VRM in Chicago
"I think we need to be aware that while travel may be picking up a bit, a lot of travelers are still cautious. That means many of the bookings we may get are not from travelers, but those who wish to abuse the property and terms of booking. Instead of closing down bookings here is what we are trying to do (work in progress)
1. Setup Property for Automatic Detection. It is hard to be looking at cameras every single minute of the day -especially when you need to sleep from time to time. We are planning to change from noise-aware to minut. Minut has motion detector as well as noise alerts. The trigger for checking cameras will be excessive motion in the house.
2. Monitor We hired someone overseas to take the US night monitoring shift. If they receive inside motion alerts, they are to check cameras. If they see a large # of people entering they are to call and wake me up.
3. Verify I then check cameras to verify
4. Removal: We retained a security company which promises to be on site within 2 hours of us contacting them to escort the guests out. $250 per call...just one person
I don’t know if any of this will work, because our many, many disclosures in the listing, at booking confirmation and check in instructions all clearly stipulate the guest will be thrown out, that we have cameras, 24/7 surveillance, security company, and noise monitoring. Yet they still come."
Kim, VRM in California
"We tell most people that the owner lives next door or that we have outdoors cameras for occupancy issues. This usually flushes our bad apples.
Any res with .edu, local number, or no kids on res is massive red flag for us
Tell them that your the manager and/or family member lives next door. This will weed out bad apples
David, VRM from Washington
Amber, VRM from Florida
"When a party is detected, go through the proper steps and channels. First message the guest to try to resolve without the police. If they continue to break the rules, call the Booking Platform (I.E Airbnb Trust and Safety Team) so that they can call the guest and everything can be documented. If that doesn't work then call the police."
Hilary, VRM in California
"I send the following email before I approve bookings that have any red flags. It's not 100 percent effective but I've had several groups not book after sending this."
Thank you for inquiring about staying at *NAME*. We would be happy to host you provided you can agree to some of our rules. We always want to be sure our property is the right fit for each guest that stays with us.
As you don't have any reviews on Airbnb yet, we like to make sure each guest understands our rules while staying at *NAME*. We absolutely want our guests to enjoy all the property offers and to have a great time, however we do have some rules regarding noise/ parties. Sound travels very easily in the desert, and we have neighbors who can be sensitive to loud music, and a party atmosphere. We do not allow any additional guests besides those staying on the property. Our quiet hours are from 9pm to 9 am which means no loud music or excessive outdoor noise out of respect to our neighbors.
*NAME* is equipped with systems to help keep guests comfortable and secure. We have a noise level monitor and outdoor security cameras in the driveway, front doorbell, and the entrance to the property.
We ask you to complete a rental agreement which is electronically signed.
If you can agree to these rules, then we're happy to approve you!
All my best,
"For Airbnb reservations, once they book, I send them a message saying you must sign our rental agreement which will finalize their reservation. I ask for their email which it will allow once the booking now completed I send them a link to our agreement via Hellosign which they view and e-sign. It's great, another level of accountability. I also put the e-sign rental agreement in my Airbnb listing description."
Tanya, from Virginia
"Be extremely skeptical of potential guests and vet them up-front. Airbnb will not protect you or your property. I recently made this same mistake. The guest said she was coming for a romantic birthday night for her husband (local to our area). She neglected to mention the 50 friends, strippers and drugs that were also coming. I lost revenue, upset 2 other cottage guests, and airbnb still hasn't contacted me. Local guests are also red flags for party central."
Stephanie, VRM from Georgia
"Ask for a copy of everyones DL to make sure they are over 25. Make them sign a rental contract. Also say the property manager/landscaper will be there sometime during their stay."
Sarah, from Florida
"At our place we limit the adult head count but offer lots more beds for kids. I have 3 NoiseAware sensors. Cameras out front, door bell, garage and rear entry way. The Ad states all of this and explains that there are no warnings, a gathering or party calls for immediate eviction with no refund on unused nights. The Ad also states that quiet time is 8pm-8am and breach warrants eviction. I also require photo ID and have each guest sign the house rules. Guests at the property are only by approval and vary depending on the occupancy (ie. 5 people are allowed more guests than 10)"
Nige, VRM from Washington
"Put in your listing that you live next door. Even if you don’t 🤷♂️😂"
Barb, VRM from Washington
"If you have ring on front, you need it on sides entrances as well. Smart kids will see ring and sneak in through side gates."
Any more ideas for preventing and dealing with partiers? Comment below or email me at email@example.com