Airbnb is restricting bookings for under 25-year-olds in Europe, in a bid to crack down on parties in short-term rental properties, but some lawyers have called the legality of the measures into question.
The pilot restrictions apply to guests from the UK, France and Spain. If they’re under the age of 25, and have fewer than three positive reviews on their account, they will not be able to book any listings that offer the whole home.
However, this restriction only applies to areas close to where they live. They can still travel outside of their local area and book whatever they please.
A statement from Airbnb, released last week, says just 0.03% of stays result in “a significant host guarantee claim”.
But, it has been working for some time to clamp down on unauthorised parties and antisocial behaviour, and “being good partners to communities”, the statement said.
In light of COVID-19, the platform has also temporarily disabled its ‘event-friendly’ search function, and strengthened policies to ban gatherings that violate public health measures.
“We want everyone to enjoy the summer safely and while the overwhelming majority of guests on our platform are responsible neighbours, we are absolutely determined to obstruct and weed-out anyone intent on causing antisocial behaviour,” Airbnb director of public policy Patrick Robinson said in a statement.
“We hope that our new policy will make it abundantly clear that there is no home for any unauthorised parties on Airbnb.”
However, the decision has raised questions about whether this new policy is discriminatory.
In a report from The Guardian, Mark Woloshak, head of the dispute resolution department at law firm Slater and Gordon, noted that, in the UK at least, age is a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act 2010.
Given the additional caveats, Woloshak noted that if the policy was applicable to people of all ages, it would be a different story.
But, Airbnb “would not be keen on that as it would limit the number of houses they put through”, he noted.
As it stands, the policy imposes rules on younger guests, “and makes it more difficult than would ordinarily be the case, based on a person’s age”.
Another lawyer, Michael Newman, discrimination and employment partner at Leigh Day, said Airbnb is somewhat protected by the other measures which mean under 25s could, in fact, rent a property like anyone else.
“You can put in place age limits provided you have legitimate aims — so a good reason to do it — and don’t go further than what you have to,” Newman said.
Partly, it comes down to whether Airbnb has good reason to restrict a certain group. If it comes down to preventing large gatherings at a time when they’re a public health risk, that’s a good enough reason.
But, if it’s about assuming one age group will engage in antisocial behaviour and property damage, perhaps not.
Is Airbnb right to restrict guest activity based on age? Why? Why not? Let us know.