Airbnb queried by Congress over listings that violate local laws

The logo of online lodging service Airbnb.
(Martin Bureau / AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. lawmakers are asking Airbnb Inc. to provide information about hosts that list short-term rentals on the site who don’t comply with local laws and violate the company’s own policies.

In a letter to Airbnb Chief Executive Brian Chesky, six members of Congress said they are particularly interested in recent media reports that have highlighted the proliferation of limited liability corporations on the home-sharing platform. For example, the lawmakers cited an article in the New York Times that reported that listings by one operation, out of compliance with company policy, were able to generate revenue of almost $21 million in three years.

Deceptive and misleading listings have also led to customers being scammed by “hosts” who abuse Airbnb’s cancellation policies, according to the letter, which was signed by Democratic Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Barbara Lee of California and Robin Kelly of Illinois, among others.


“While we appreciate that you have frequently stated that Airbnb has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy with respect to these types of host behaviors, it also seems clear that you have failed to authenticate host identities in a way that would prevent bad actors from continuing to rent through your platform under false identities after being banned,” the letter stated.

The lawmakers said they hoped Chesky would meet with them within the next two weeks to answer a list of questions, including how Airbnb vets hosts and how it will verify the veracity of photos on rental listings. Airbnb representatives didn’t immediately answer a request for comment.

Airbnb announced significant safety measures this month in the wake of a deadly shooting at a house in California. The changes include a 24/7 neighbor hotline, 100% verification of all the listings on the site and a full-refund policy for guests. The San Francisco-based company is preparing for a public stock market listing next year and is trying to resolve regulatory issues with various cities across the U.S.