Airbnb Hosts Prepare for Summer Party Ban in Arizona

If you’re looking to throw a house party in metro Phoenix this summer and need a venue, you’re better off asking a friend than booking a rental home through short-term lodging giant Airbnb.

For the second consecutive year, the global booking website is further tightening its strict anti-party measures in Phoenix and beyond.

“We continue to draw a hard line on parties and emphasize safe and responsible travel,” company spokesperson Aaron Swor stated in a recent email to Phoenix New Times. “We do not take these measures lightly.”

The San Fransisco-based company defines parties as gatherings of 16 or more people, or smaller groups creating “excessive noise.”

Airbnb rolled out its maiden “anti-party crackdown” for the summer holidays in 2021.

“We believe it worked,” Swor said.

Airbnb hosts who have garnered consistently good reviews over at least a year are dubbed “Superhosts” by the company. These hosts largely support barring young suspected revelers from booking rentals through the site, especially those under 25 years old.

Moises Gomez, a 26-year-old budding Airbnb Superhost in Phoenix, is a Superhost.

“We are not a party property,” he said.

Gomez, who rents the Charming Coronado Casita near Almeria Road and 13th Street in Phoenix, was named the No. 1 new host in Arizona in November by Airbnb.

It’s a picturesque little house in the Coronado neighborhood just north of downtown, complete with a hot tub, firepit, and cornhole setup — perfect for a summer party. Gomez rents the property for $89 per night and has gleaned a 4.9-star rating over nearly 200 guest reviews.

“For our guests, this hasn’t been an issue,” Gomez said of Airbnb’s anti-party campaign. “We are clear with our guests that our objective is to provide them with a top-quality short-term housing opportunity during their visit to Phoenix, and have had great success as we market to those looking for this kind of option.”

Airbnb began the indefinite ban on parties by young renters in August 2020, citing neighbor complaints, trashed homes, and a need for social distancing amid worsening public health conditions.

Before the party ban, the vast majority of Airbnb listings — 73 percent globally in 2020, according to its website — already prohibited parties.

Last summer, the online vacation rental marketplace introduced a new product aimed at trying to stop unauthorized parties during Independence Day weekend.

The company touted nixing 11,000 reservations in Arizona last year, mostly during Independence Day, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve, New Times first reported in February.

Phoenix was sixth on the list of the places with properties “most-blocked” for potential parties nationwide in 2021, even more so than hubs like Las Vegas and Miami, Airbnb data shows.

This year, Airbnb is expanding this anti-party system to include Memorial Day weekend for the very first time. It’s also deploying more stringent and creative barriers to prevent would-be partiers from securing bookings for nefarious reasons.

Guests without a history of positive reviews on Airbnb will be prohibited from making one-night reservations in entire home listings. Two-night reservations will also be limited to guests with a history of positive reviews.

For locals, security goes a step further.

Airbnb also introduced anti-party attestations to guests attempting to make local reservations. They are required to affirm their understanding that Airbnb bans parties, and if that rule is broken, they may be subject to legal action from the company.

“We understand that the simple fact of not yet having reviews does not mean that a guest is trying to throw a party,” Swor said. “This is a trade-off we are willing to make in the interest of trust and safety.”

It’s a worthy trade-off for Daniel Tocora, who founded Scottsdale-based AZ Getaway Rentals LLC in 2019. He rents properties across the Valley, in Sedona, and in the Mexican border state of Sonora, with the help of Airbnb.

Tocora endorsed Airbnb’s restrictions in the New Times article published in February. Amid new restrictions, New Times checked back with the local entrepreneur.

“It’s not hurting us too much,” Tocora said. “It might be good, it might be bad, but I’m not one to complain about restrictions. I just find a way to make it work.”

Because most of his properties are houses with pools, local residents often seek bookings not to throw ragers, but simply to cool off during Arizona’s sweltering summer months, he said.

Customers just wanting to take a dip may have a harder time using the services of AZ Getaway Rentals, especially with burgeoning swimming pool rental websites available. For instance, Los Angeles-based Swimply is a private pool rental marketplace that launched in 2018 but has only gained serious traction this year.

It’s a legitimate reason why locals might book a house for one night, Tocora said. With additional limitations, there’s a chance Airbnb could lose business to new, niche companies like Swimply.

More than 94 percent of Scottsdale’s 6,200 Airbnb listings are for entire homes, not just rooms, according to market analytics clearinghouse AirDNA. Most of those homes have pools.

That’s 1,000 more listings in Scottsdale than were available on the website just four months ago. With an average nightly rate of more than $320, most hosts like Tocora are taking in about $4,300 per property per month.

At least so far, Airbnb and its hosts continue to flourish, even with more restrictions.

“People say the market is oversaturated, but we’ve been on a trajectory to keep growing,” Tocora said.

During the sluggish summer months in Phoenix, business booms at his northern Mexico properties in Puerto Peñasco, also called Rocky Point.

When things cool down in the Gulf of California in the winter, snowbirds flock to rental homes in the Valley.

“It all balances out,” Tocora said. “I see this as an opportunity to outperform my competition.”

Airbnb took its enforcement one step further when it suspended 70 properties from being listed on its website in Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Sedona, and Flagstaff in February 2021 for breaking the rules.

Since then, Airbnb has been rolling out its Neighborhood Support Line, which provides a forum for people to flag their neighbors in real time if they spot a party in progress at a home that they believe is listed on Airbnb.

Airbnb then works with law enforcement to shut down the party.

Tocora received one such complaint recently at a duplex he was renting out in Tucson. Hearing loud music, a neighbor called the Neighborhood Support Line to report a party, and police officers soon arrived on the scene.

The shindig ended up being a 6-year-old’s birthday party attended by about eight people. Neither cops nor Airbnb took action.

The concept of not allowing parties is a routine practice used by local hoteliers for decades. Hospitality experts advise owners to not rent rooms to people who live in the same town because chances are the room might get trashed during a raucous party, and the guests don’t have to clean up afterward.

The new restrictions are familiar to seasoned hosts across the Valley.

“We do a lot of fetching for information and it has helped us avoid any problems,” Tocora said. “If anything sounds above and beyond what that house can take, we tell them to cancel.”

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