TOMS RIVER, NJ — Homes in Toms River and Jackson are among 35 across New Jersey that have been suspended or removed by Airbnb over violations of policies on parties and events, the company said Friday.
The crackdown, which affected listings from 24 towns, comes days after an Airbnb rental of a Jackson home drew 700 people to a party that featured free food, free alcohol and a twerking contest with a $1,000 prize. It took authorities from seven agencies including all of Jackson's on-duty officers, nearly five hours to clear partygoers from the neighborhood.
The homeowner, Yaakov Weiss, 40, and party organizers Patience Guanue, 23, and Alicia Hinneh, 22, both of Newark, were issued summonses for violating Gov. Phil Murphy's executive order limiting gatherings to 500 people or fewer in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Jackson Capt. Steven Laskiewicz said.
Airbnb officials on Monday said Weiss's listing was suspended pending the outcome of its investigation. It did not identify addresses of the suspensions and bans announced Friday.
The company had previously banned party houses in the midst of the pandemic, in an effort to help encourage safety and help prevent spread of the virus.
"While the vast majority of hosts in New Jersey take important steps to prevent unauthorized parties — like establishing clear house rules, quiet hours, and communicating in advance with their guests — our actions today address the small minority of hosts who have previously received warnings about hosting responsibly," the company said in a news release. The hosts were notified of the suspensions beginning Thursday.
Murphy has repeatedly addressed indoor parties in his coronavirus briefings in recent days as New Jersey has seen an uptick in the rate of transmission of the coronavirus. Ocean County has had nearly 200 positive cases in the last week, including 39 in Toms River.
In late 2019, Airbnb announced a 24/7 Neighborhood Support Hotline in the United States, where neighbors can call us anytime and reach a real person at Airbnb. The hotline is staffed with a rapid response team so that neighbors can reach us directly with their concerns. Issues raised by New Jersey residents through this hotline led directly to many of the listing suspensions announced Friday.
"We stand with Governor Murphy, and we support his call to action to stop parties and promote behavior that respects the public’s health," said Chris Lehane, a senior vice president at Airbnb. "We ban party houses and will not tolerate irresponsible behavior on our platform. We know that there is still more work to be done, we ask that neighbors contact us as soon as possible through our, to directly communicate any concerns, which will help us continue to effectively enforce our party house ban."
Stopping large gatherings is more important than ever in this current environment. The party house measures come on the heels of several other anti-party initiatives from Airbnb, including a strengthening of our policies to prohibit gatherings that violate public health mandates.
Additionally, Airbnb has added restrictions preventing some guests under 25 from booking entire home listings in their local area. As a practical example, if we identify a 20-year old guest who is located in Hoboken, our systems are set up to restrict that user from booking a house, apartment or other entire home listing in Hoboken for a 1-night reservation the following weekend unless they have a history of positive reviews on Airbnb. However, if that same 20 year-old is booking a stay to visit family in Ocean City, the restriction would not apply.
Airbnb also announced last year the expansion of manual screening of high-risk reservations flagged by our automated systems. This helps identify reservations that help stop unauthorized parties before they start.
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