- The Washington Times
Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Airbnb is banning from its short-term rental platform anyone who was arrested during last week’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The effort is part of the company’s Capitol Safety Plan, announced Monday, that includes seven steps “to help build trust and assist with protecting the greater D.C. community” ahead of the inauguration.

Employees are identifying and ousting users “confirmed to have been responsible for the violent criminal activity” at the Capitol through media and law enforcement “sources,” including Metropolitan Police Department arrest logs from Jan. 6.

The decision comes as some residents and city officials are urging Airbnb, VRBO and other short-term rental agencies to remove listings until after the Jan. 20 inauguration of Joseph R. Biden.

“There’s no way to guarantee that your guests are not coming to incite violence,” D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George, Ward 4 Democrat, tweeted Monday. “Please protect your neighbors and the District from more attacks. #DontRentDC.”

Under Airbnb’s new plan, all bookings in the D.C. area made before the inauguration are being reviewed. Users reportedly will be notified that the company “may bring legal action” if the user or their guests are part of a hate group, planning violence or in violation of company rules.

Reservations also will be cancelled if guests are connected to hate groups or violence, a policy that has been in place since 2017, when the company began blocking guests planning to attend the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Local hosts who suspect users are in violation of the policies are encouraged to contact the Airbnb Urgent Safety Line. Additionally, neighbors can report issues through the company’s 24/7 Neighborhood Support hotline or the company website.

The hashtag #DontRentDC tweeted by Ms. Lewis George is circulating on the social media site with calls for local hosts to remove rentals altogether until the inauguration is over.

Jen Bristol, a D.C. resident and former member of the 1B06 Advisory Neighborhood Commission, tweeted the hashtag and encouraged “all hosts to refrain from listing.”

“Even if hosts try to vet their guests, they could unknowingly be inviting white supremacists & domestic terrorists to stay in our neighborhoods Jan. 17-20,” Miss Bristol tweeted Sunday.

The activist group ShutdownDC said it sent a letter to Airbnb on Tuesday requesting that any fees associated with cancellations through Jan. 21 be waived as “numerous hosts” have cited the costs as a “discouragement.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Airbnb website showed hundreds of available places to stay in the D.C. area through Jan. 21.

Airbnb allows renters to book short-term stays, as well as month-to-month rentals or sublets, according to the company website.

Moreover, the company asks hosts to consider requiring long-term guests to sign a rental agreement in order to avoid issues with local tenant rights laws. If any problems do arise, hosts are encouraged to contact the company support team for assistance.

The average Airbnb rental in the District costs $145 per day and hosts make a monthly average of about $1,600, according to AirDNA, a company that reports vacation rental data.

An Airbnb spokesperson declined to comment Tuesday on the number of reservation cancellations and account removals that have been made so far under the plan. Meanwhile, VRBO has not announced any similar plans to remove accounts or cancel reservations as of Tuesday.

John Falcicchio, D.C. deputy mayor for planning and economic development, commented on Airbnb’s new policy in an email statement Tuesday.

“In these days leading up to the Inauguration, we must all understand that we are now in a post-January 6th America, so we are encouraged that the business community continues to step up to implement measures to protect life and property in the District of Columbia and beyond,” Mr. Falcicchio said.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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