A Halloween party at an Airbnb in Orinda, California, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, ended in the deaths of five people; 22-year-old Tiyon Farley, 24-year-old Omar Taylor, 23-year-old Ramon Hill Jr., 29-year-old Javin County, and 19-year-old Oshiana Tompkins. Several other people were injured.
Witnesses, including other party goers, reported hearing gunshots, though the police who arrived on scene were apparently responding to two separate noise complaints. When the police arrived on the scene people were panicking and running from the house. Tiyon, Omar, and Ramon were found dead at the party, then Javin and Oshiana died in the hospital. The official Contra Costa Sheriff’s Facebook page shows the investigation into the shooting as ongoing. No one is currently in custody.
Following this event, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky tweeted that the company is banning “party houses” and working toward preventing “abusive” conduct on the part of both hosts and guests. Chesky laid out a plan aimed at preventing further tragedies and placed an Executive Team member in charge of a ten-day effort to implement the changes. In the meantime, the renter has been banned from the app and the home has been unlisted. The host, Michael Wang, who was not present at the party, had been told that the house was being used for a family event, and was expecting only a dozen people. He also told the guests that parties were not allowed in the house. Wang told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was one of the people who reported a noise complaint to the police, after receiving complaints from his neighbors.
This is not the first problem to occur at this Airbnb location. Orinda city records show that a violation to the rental property’s maximum occupancy of 13 people was issued in March along with a violation for illegal parking. According to City Manager Steve Salomon there were also previous problems in February and the proceeding July for over-occupancy, noise, and an excess of trash, all of which had been resolved. No further incidents had occurred since February 2019.
In response to this event, and others preceding it, cities have begun to regulate short term rentals. “Party houses,” as Chesky calls them, are far from the only problem that Airbnb has, including hosts who register one address for a rental and then switch locations on the renter at the last minute. The Twitter replies following Chesky’s announcement are littered with complaints from both guests and hosts, enumerating the flaws in Airbnb’s current system. The company has already agreed to work with Los Angeles to enforce regulations the city created in July to address some of these issues, such as a registry for any hosts as well as a fee to the city. Airbnb has not yet implemented the changes but says the update will ensure no posting will exist without the city’s approval.
Many seem doubtful as to how incidents like this can be prevented by the new rules proposed by Chesky. Though there is agreement that something about the rental service must change. Orinda Mayor Inga Miller is urging the city to make changes of its own, and suggested that the community may want to limit short term rentals to “hosted rentals where owners are present at all times.” This was the first homicide to occur in the city in seven years.
The effect these events and further regulations on the industry will have on Airbnb’s projected 2020 IPO is unclear.