Airbnb extends its party ban but lifts its 16-guest limit

Jun 28, 2022

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The party’s over for Airbnb guests — the ones who like to party, that is.

The online accommodation marketplace has put its foot down on festivities once and for all, issuing an outright ban on “disruptive parties and events.”

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The vacation rental company issued a temporary party embargo in 2020 to better follow social distancing rules during the pandemic. The prohibition went so well that the company decided to make the ban permanent.

“Over time, the party ban became much more than a public health measure,” Airbnb wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. “It developed into a bedrock community policy to support our Hosts and their neighbors.”

“The temporary ban has proved effective, and today we are officially codifying the ban as our policy,” the company added.

Related: Airbnb just dropped its ‘biggest change’ in a decade

Oddly, however, Airbnb is lifting its 16-person limit on stays.

So, you can stay with more than 16 people, as long as the property allows it, but whatever you do: Don’t. Throw. A. Party.

Seriously, no partying.

What exactly constitutes a party anyway?

people running into ocean
Airbnb’s definition of a party is a bit difficult to interpret. (Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen/Unsplash)

Airbnb’s terms on what exactly constitutes a party remain somewhat murky.

In its announcement, the company singles out “disruptive parties and events … including open-invite gatherings (those advertised on social media),” while “chronic party houses” are also permanently cut. Airbnb doesn’t directly clarify in its announcement but we suspect this refers to notoriously prolific party locations.

When TPG pushed Airbnb on what exactly this means, Airbnb representatives said the company uses an array of “signals” to determine whether a party violates the ban or not. 

Related: Now may be the time to book future travel

These “signals” include factors such as excessive noise, excessive mess, excessive visitors and parking that affects neighbors. For simplicity, if what you’re doing is excessive, assume you can’t do it.

What is the background of the ban?

screenshot of home options airbnb
Airbnb’s redesigned website has 56 categories of homes. (Screenshot from airbnb.co.uk)

Historically, Airbnb has let hosts “use their best judgment” as to whether their property was an appropriate place to throw a party, according to the company. “[Then], in late 2019, we tightened our measures to prohibit [parties] that had developed into neighborhood nuisances,” it said.

However, when the pandemic shuttered pubs and clubs across the world in the spring of 2020, Airbnb became an outlet for certain fun-starved sesh-seekers on a mission to let their hair down.

Related: Amid local pushback, Airbnb reminds users to abide by its rules — or else

As a result, the company saw a rash of lockdown-flouting parties breaking out on its watch.

“This was concerning to us due to both the disruptive nature of unauthorized parties and the risk of such gatherings spreading the virus,” Airbnb said. “As such, we announced the party ban to our community as being in the best interest of public health.”

As a result of the ban, Airbnb said it saw a 44% year-over-year drop in the rate of party reports globally, a 49% drop in reports in Ireland and a 63% drop in the United Kingdom. We can’t confirm this but it’s quite possible that this makes Airbnb the most successful party pooper in the history of socializing.

Can I still go away with 10 friends for a celebratory gathering that’s definitely not a birthday party?

When TPG asked Airbnb, the company said groups are not expected to sit in the living room quietly playing Trivial Pursuit all weekend. Phew.

So long as you keep noise to a respectful level, tidy up after yourself and don’t dance naked in the street at 2 a.m, you should be fine.

This is about preventing “disruptive” parties, the company says. Responsible, respectful groups of friends, in other words, should still be welcome. Which may mean that you can actually party? Just … quietly and respectfully. Without a karaoke machine.

What if I want to take 20 family members to a castle for calm and silent bonding?

Airbnb has relaxed its 16-person cap exactly so large groups can stay in castles and other large properties. (Screenshot from airbnb.co.uk)

Airbnb has relaxed its 16-person cap for exactly this reason. Just don’t turn it into a party.

“Our recent Summer Release introduced Categories, which highlight several types of larger homes that, by definition, are capable of comfortably and safely housing more than 16 people — from castles in Europe to vineyards in the US to large beachfront villas in the Caribbean,” it says.

Related: TPG’s guide to the best all-inclusive resorts you can book with points

These are certain properties that “thrive on hosting multi-generational family trips and larger groups,” according to Airbnb. “Removing this cap is meant to allow those Hosts to responsibly utilize the space in their homes while still complying with our ban on disruptive parties.”

What is the punishment for people who do break the rules?

The penalties for breaking these new rules will be harsh and exacting — you could even be banned from the site for life.

“In 2021, over 6,600 guests were suspended from Airbnb for attempting to violate our party ban,” the company said. “In these cases, we also work to support our Hosts with property damage protection via AirCover for Hosts.”

“Strong policies must be complemented by strong enforcement,” according to the company. “We’ve introduced a number of anti-party measures in recent years to enforce our policy and try, to the best of our ability, to stop both unauthorized parties and chronic party houses.”

These include anti-party reservation prevention, special holiday anti-party measures, a 24-hour safety line, a neighborhood support line and a partnership with Vrbo to share information on repeat “party house” offenders.

Bottom line

We would absolutely never condone holding parties that could be described as “chronic” or disturbing. However, this ruling does seem like something of a heavy-handed and subjective policy that we imagine is going to be quite hard to actually enforce.

It also ignores the needs of millions of respectful partygoers who just want to pop open a few bottles of prosecco, throw on some karaoke and dance around a kitchen that they don’t own without upsetting the entire local area.

Considering all of this, if you absolutely must party: Please do so respectfully.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

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