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For formerly incarcerated, little room in Airbnb’s sharing economy

[usatoday.com – 6/28/18]

Airbnb doesn’t care about people like me.

I learned this the hard way a few months ago when I tried to find accommodation in Washington, D.C.

After chaperoning two busloads of youth from New York City for the March for Our Lives, I decided to stay a couple more days. The other chaperones agreed to ride the bus back to New York City with the kids, and I logged into my new Airbnb account for the first time to find a place to spend the night. Soon after locating and booking a suitable place, I received an email from Airbnb stating:

“Upon review, and given information uncovered pursuant to online public records, we have determined that it is in the best interest of Airbnb, and for the users on our site, to deactivate your account.”

Airbnb confirmed what I already knew: The reason for the company deactivating my account was my conviction for attempted robbery, and first- and second-degree assault, 16 years ago.

Airbnb’s website identifies certain criminal convictions as a reason to disqualify people from using its service. Now, after years of healing and loving work, I am confronted, yet again, with the cruel reality that society makes people like me keep paying for mistakes far beyond our prison term.

Read more

 

Join the discussion

  1. LS

    Um ya, those with “records” whether 25 days ago or 25 years ago, are subject to “disadvantages” throughout the rest of their/our lives. Sad but true…

  2. David

    it’s a good article and the “Editor’s Note” at the end of the article is especially interesting. Airbnb has a official policy on banning individuals that the company will not publish and will not divulge.

  3. Ali

    I got the same message when I tried to rent my home – which requires additional documents for verification if you want to host. I deleted my account and create a new one with limited personal information. I now only use it to book a room when I travel.

  4. Tim L

    Banishment by electronic list.
    The intent of the lists are now quite clear and that is to impose affirmative disability.

  5. Anonymous

    I have an account. There’s an easy totally legal work around guys & gals. No probs. I use it a couple of times a year or more. Like I said. No probs.

    • CR

      Well then, what is it?

    • Joe123

      What a fascinatingly useful comment for everyone. It would help if you shared how you work around this issue. I assume just rent out the room or home under someone else instead of yourself?

  6. Tim Moore

    I am not going to sit back and whine that nobody is providing services and employment for me. Time to take our lives into our own hands. Let’s try it. If prisoners in Puerto Rico can take their own economic destiny in their hands, not without much difficulty to be perfectly real I must add, then registrants can do something similar. http://www.geo.coop/story/worlds-first-prisoner-worker-co-op
    Arguably, we are going through the worst hazing a society can inflict on a class of citizens. That can be a rebirth in fire or a retreat in shame. Our choice. Our survival is our strength. Imagine what latent energy is within us to be released and directed if we organize.

    • Bruce Ferrell

      Tim, unfortunately setting up an alternative just set’s a a running game of whack-a-mole… We set up one place and then find that place taken away again.

      The only solution is to make their unlawful behavior hurt in the only way they understand… Take their money in the courts.

      • Tim Moore

        Doesn’t new moles popping up cost them also? I swear one can’t play that game forever, without expending a lot of resources and the losing interest. If your mole is going to court more power to you. It doesn’t appeal to me, so I am looking for something I can get behind. They will prepare for court just the same as with the legislature, another mole, so don’t give them just one to whack. Your faith in the courts is admirable, but most of us will be dead before we see relief that way. Nothing is given easily. That is history. We got to have many moles to pop up and outlast them. JMO.

  7. WTF?

    I emailed them about their policies a while back. They sent me what amounts to a form letter about their policy. Basically, there are enough people that use their service that they could care less about superior service.
    This holds true about most corporate entities. Customer service is a line to say in an advertisement, nothing more. There are just too many people that will use their products anyway. So why not fight fire with fire. Get your friends to write horrible reviews about them. Who cares if it’s not true. Try and prove it. The damage will already have been done. This should sound familiar.

  8. Jason

    I’ve never had an issue renting through Airbnb, I use them frequently. My neighbor also rents out her place from time to time. In 2017, we rented out our home to Art Students to film a low budget scary movie. No issues here from all ends.

    • David

      I am on the Registry, but am not publicly visible. I successfully used AirBnB for two years with no problem. Then I received an email exactly the same as the article’s author.
      I have heard property owners blithely state “Well, it’s reassuring that they screen out sex offenders.” Don’t be so sure.

      • Ed

        I have been an AIRBNB member that lives in New Jersey for over a year. I have already rented twice from them with zero issues in other states. The beginning of Aug I rented a beach-side condo for my family that was driving from Kansas to New Jersey. AIRBNB quickly took my money, the host sent me a contract & I had a confirmed reservation. The day before at 630am I get a email from AIRBNB stating they needed to confirm my identity. They already had my FB information, DOB, Phone# and personal email & address & Credit info. Email – I have to confirm ID, before my next reservation which was the next day and if I do not they will cancel my reservation. I complied & waited. At 10:26am they email me the following -We regret to inform you that, we made a determination to permanently deactivate your account. The following information was found in a consumer report-Criminal Records Match. Yes I had a conviction in 1998, & listed as a sex offender. Do they have a legal right to cancel a confirmed Reservation & Contract 26 hours before I check in? The host lost $1200.00 & I had to scramble to find a hotel. Now I find out they banned my wife too since she lives at same address. Is that legal?

        • AJ

          @Ed:
          Unless AirBnb refused service to you based on your being a member a Federal or State protected class (i.e. race, religion, origin, etc.), they can refuse service.

        • Chris F

          Yep, just like AJ said, a business can refuse service to anyone not in a protected class and especially if there is anything derogatory about them.

          The best that can come from this is to use it as another burden against the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as well as affecting the rights to travel, association, and family relationships as part of a Substantive Due Process challenge against the arbitrary placement and duration on the registry. It’s just like being banned from Facebook and Nextdoor web sites. These are more burdens the Smith court didn’t see coming but should have.

        • Tim Moore

          Airbnb doesn’t own your house. How can they tell you you can’t rent it out to anyone? Just like Monsanto saying you can’t grow any variety of corn but their Roundup Ready mutants.
          Anything big and centralized becomes overbearing to the average person and it doesn’t take long for it to happen.

        • David Kennerly

          Tim, AirBnB isn’t telling you that you can’t rent out a room to anyone, they’re saying that they won’t help you to do it. Still, we must keep in mind that the way AirBnB and other companies are able to discriminate against the Registered is because the Registries exist. Until they are abolished, we can only expect more of this treatment.

        • Tim Moore

          The government isn’t making them discriminate against registrants, is it? Technically, they are violating California law.

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