Starting today, if you want to rent your apartment/home/igloo/yurt on Airbnb, you’ll have to agree to the terms of the company’s new anti-discrimination policy. Called the “Community Commitment,” the new policy is designed to create a safer and more welcoming experience for all Airbnb users, following months of allegations of racism facing Airbnb users of color. (For instance, a Harvard study found that people with names that “sounded African-American” had a significantly harder time renting on Airbnb.)
Existing Airbnb users received an email about the Community Commitment over the weekend, explaining that it will be mandatory if you want to continue using the service. (It will also be required of new users joining to platform going forward.)
If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is canceled, future booked trips will be canceled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.
Airbnb’s new policy and its emphasis on “respect and inclusion” come after a long series of discrimination issues plaguing the platform. In June, an Airbnb host was banned for harassing a Nigerian grad student, calling her the N-word and “blacky.” In October 2015, Ronnia Cherry and Stefan Grant had to explain themselves to the cops when neighbors called the police after spotting the duo at their Airbnb rental in Georgia. (The pair later went on to found Noirbnb, a home-rental platform specifically designed for the POC community.) This spring, Gregory Selden, a 25-year-old black man, filed a lawsuit against Airbnb, arguing that it violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Selden says he was denied a room from a given host, the same room he was later able to book after changing his Airbnb-profile avatar to a white guy.) And these are just a few of the examples you’ll find if you check out the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.
Going forward, Airbnb says hosts will not be able to “decline a guest based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.” (One exception: Hosts can decline to rent to someone of a gender other than their own if the host and guest will be sharing living spaces.) Declining guests based on disability or perceived disability will also not be allowed. All policies will be enforced internationally. (Which is interesting, given Airbnb operates in nations around the world where LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups are not welcomed by local laws and customs.)
If a host violates the Community Commitment, by posting a listing with discriminatory language, Airbnb says the host will be forced to edit the listing or else face suspension. Refusing a rental to someone is also grounds for potential suspension. The company also acknowledges there are ways for people to use legal ways to reject guests (traveling with pets, smokers) as a way to keep people from protected classes from renting. (Airbnb also says this could lead to suspension.) So while it’s certainly not a perfect system and likely won’t fix all of Airbnb’s issues, this new policy definitely seems like the company is on the right track. The Community Commitment goes into effect today; now we’ll just have to wait and see if it works.