Fair housing implications and discrimination
In Jul 2016, former Attorney General Eric Holder was hired to help craft an anti-discrimination policy for Airbnb after the company faced many complaints related to racism, including a study by Harvard Business School that showed widespread discrimination by hosts against guests whose names suggested that they were black. The platform has also faced complaints of racial discrimination in listings in China, particularly against Uyghurs.
Airbnb has been criticized for allegedly resulting in increased housing prices. Since the company's globalization, many governments have passed various regulations limiting operations of short-term housing rental companies, such as Airbnb.
Negative guest experiences
According to Airbnb, less than 0.1% of 200 million bookings a year result in a reported safety issue.
In 2017, travel blogger Asher Fergusson analyzed 1,021 incidents of negative experiences reported by guests. He found that there are ways for hosts to use fake information to circumvent Airbnb's background checks. He noted several reported incidents including last-minute cancellations, moldy or rodent-infested lodging, theft, invasion of privacy, and even rape and murder. Airbnb responded that the 1,021 incidents are statistically insignificant compared to 260 million check-ins at the time and that the company tries to remedy any problems.
Despite pledging to verify all listings on its platform for accuracy by December 15, 2020, a number of Airbnb's 7 million listings are fraudulent. Airbnb doesn't require a listing address for hosts to bill guests and in cases phones were disconnected after reservations posted.
In 2017, the court case, La Park La Brea A LLC v. Airbnb, Inc, a group of tenants complain about property damage, nuisance, and disturbance that stemmed from Airbnb guests. The building owner incurred costs to preserve safety, repair damages, and evict Airbnb guests.
A Vice News journalist reported in October 2019 on a bait-and-switch scam in which a network of fake accounts advertised stays at dozens of properties across eight US cities that once booked was said to be unavailable at the last minute. Substandard alternatives were offered in their place, including to the journalist, refunds were refused, fake positive reviews were left for the fake properties, and negative retaliatory reviews were left for customers who complained.
Airbnb closed some of the accounts and the FBI began an investigation in response to the report. A Wired journalist reported a similar scam in London in February 2020 run by a German man, Christian Baumann, and his company Continental Apartments. Airbnb closed the accounts, but Wandsworth Borough Council planning office took no action.
Delisting of West Bank settlements
In 2018, Airbnb announced that it will remove the approximately 200 "listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians".
Listings in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights were not affected. The move was praised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Palestinians, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. The move was criticized by Israel's Tourism Minister and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which decried the move as antisemitism.
A class action suit in the Jerusalem District Court alleging discrimination based on place of residence was filed against Airbnb by affected property owners.
In Apr 2019 the company announced that it "will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform" and that "Any profits generated for Airbnb … will be donated to non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world".
Failure to provide required information to government
In New York State it is illegal to rent out an apartment for less than thirty days unless the registered tenant is at home.
In 2018, New York City passed legislation requiring Airbnb and other short-term rentals/home-sharing services to submit monthly reports to the city. Airbnb contested the law and in January it was blocked from taking effect pending further litigation.
In May 2019, Airbnb agreed to turn over some anonymized information for approximately 17,000 listings so that the city could pursue illegal rentals.
Similar cases were settled in Boston and Miami.
Transparency of user data sharing practices with China
In November 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported that an Airbnb executive resigned in 2019 due to concerns about a lack of transparency around practices of sharing user data with the government of China. As with all hospitality businesses operating in China, Airbnb shares information such as phone numbers and email addresses with the Chinese government when a user books a rental.
This includes both Chinese citizens and foreign visitors. In 2019, Chinese officials approached Airbnb with an unwritten request for more user data, including more "real-time data". Airbnb said it declined the request and does not share real-time data. Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk, who heads the platform's China unit, said, “We’re not here to promote American values”.
Double charging in the Netherlands
In Mar 2020, a subdistrict court ruling in the Netherlands found that instances of Airbnb charging twice — once from the renter and once from the client — was illegal and that those who had rented as guests have a right for re-imbursement if they file a claim.
Airbnb spokesperson said "this ruling is contrary to the ruling of the highest [sic] European judge, who recently decided that Airbnb is not a real estate agent but an information service." It is estimated that close to 30,000 customers are eligible to make a claim.
Airbnb has filed countersuits in an attempt to gain clarity on the ruling.