The music was blaring, the bar was overflowing, and the air was thick with weed smoke. Armed security holding long guns kept watch. It was a Saturday night in February, and around 300 people were partying hard at a near-5,000 square-foot Airbnb in rural Ohio. Then the cops arrived.
As the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s deputies rolled in, revelers locked the doors. Fights broke out, police records show. Someone threw a can of Red Bull at an officer. People fled. In the chaos, one partygoer refused to cooperate and allegedly got into a car to flee and struck a deputy.
Airbnb permanently banned parties in 2022, two years after it put them on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic—but large-scale and often dangerous parties still plague the platform. In April 2022, at least 11 people were shot, two of whom were teens who died, at a 200-person house party at an Airbnb in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And in December 2022, five people were shot and one died at an Airbnb in Rochester, New York, where the group was filming a music video. The unauthorized parties have resulted in serious injury and death, damaged property, and disrupted communities.
And the gatherings extend across the United States, far from the bright lights of party cities like Austin or New Orleans. The Ohio house, just to the east of the state’s Amish Country, is advertised as a getaway with a heated swimming pool and room for family activities, like “games, quilting, and scrapbooking.” It’s perched on a hill in a rural community of just under 100,000 people equidistant to Columbus, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. There’s a nature preserve, some farms, and a camp nearby.
Hundreds of reviews have left the home with a rating of 4.97 stars out of 5. But, with just a few clicks, this rural idyll was turned into a dangerous rager.
As the parties continue, Airbnb says it has stepped up its efforts to thwart them. The Airbnb party ban might stretch back to the pandemic, but problematic guests are as old as Airbnb itself. In October 2019, the issue hit a tipping point, when a mass shooting at an Airbnb in a wealthy San Francisco suburb left five people dead. Airbnb soon after announced the launch of a 24/7 “Neighbor Hotline,” and said it would work harder to screen high-risk reservations and verify listings.
Airbnb now runs background checks on guests in the US and India. As of June, all Airbnb guests and primary hosts must undergo an identity verification process by providing photo ID that matches details on their profiles. Airbnb says it may also use names, phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth, or a Social Security number, and match it to third-party databases.
Those screening processes follow earlier prevention measures, which included restrictions on renting to some under-25-year-olds, and limiting the number of Airbnb guests to 16 (though stays that can accommodate more than 16 are permitted to do so again). Airbnb’s booking software looks at a guest’s past reviews and history booking with Airbnb, the length of their trip, how far they live from the listing, and whether they want to book on a weekend or weekday to try to flag possible partiers. The system’s scrutinies on reservations are heightened during holiday weekends, the company says. Yet critics argue that parties still happen, people find loopholes, and the protections aren’t enough—and that strong, local regulation is needed to keep people safe.