No More Parties in the UK, France and Spain: Airbnb Bans Under 25s

August 24, 2020

3 min read

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What's going on here?

Airbnb is banning under-25s from booking entire properties in the UK, France and Spain. The crackdown is an effort to prevent house parties, which skirt social distancing rules amid COVID-19.

What does this mean?

The accommodation rental group is stopping users under the age of 25 from booking a whole property, of any size, in their local areas. But those who have at least three positive reviews and no negative ratings are exempted. The ban also does not stop people from renting hotel rooms or private rooms in someone’s house. In a nutshell, the ban is “intended to protect local communities while still allowing younger guests to book listings outside their local area.”

By limiting the booking of whole listings, Airbnb hopes to make it very difficult for under-25s to throw rowdy house parties. After all, “house” parties usually need a house and not just one room. And though over-25s can be just as irresponsible, the ban is designed to limit anti-social behaviour based on complaints the company has received. The new rules also include a cap on occupancy in listings at 16. Hosts or guests who try to dodge the rules will face a ban from Airbnb’s community and possibly further legal consequences.

What's the big picture effect?

Airbnb’s track record on safety and trust is a dark cloud over the company as it prepares for its initial public offering (IPO), which is expected in the coming months. The ban on under-25s is likely an attempt to improve its reputation as the rental company prepares to take the plunge into the public market. After all, a legal scuffle with governments or local communities is the last thing Airbnb needs as it attempts to raise capital. But more generally, the upcoming IPO underscores a rebound in parts of the travel industry, which was hard hit by lockdowns due to the pandemic. As travel resumes and staycations boom, other companies in the travel industry are likely to go to great lengths to improve investor confidence and public sentiment.

However, the ban could leave the home-sharing company open to legal challenges under the Equality Act 2010. The Act protects people from discrimination based on their age. To put this into context, let’s take car insurance for example. Companies used to charge young men higher premiums because they were viewed as worse drivers and more accident-prone. This was later found to be illegal. While this does not bode well for Airbnb, its under-25s ban is a qualified one; placing conditions such as requesting three positive reviews. Thus, the ban is not discriminatory based on age alone. This is significant as the Equality Act allows age limits provided there are legitimate aims: good reasons to do it and actions taken are proportional. The situation is, therefore, complex and litigation lawyers will be needed to clarify how successful any claims against Airbnb would be. More broadly, Risk Management teams in law firms will be busy as other travel companies seek to comply with safety regulations and stand up to investor scrutiny.

Airbnb’s decision to ban under-25s shows that the company has had to strike a balance between public safety and economic growth. While the rental company has banked on improvements in its safety record to boost its long-term growth prospects, we’ll have to wait and see what other travel companies do as COVID-19 continues to leave the industry on shaky footing.

Report written by Deniyi Coker

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