Better late than never: Airbnb is preventing landlords from renting units where tenants have been evicted for not paying rent after the U.S. Centre for Disease Control’s pandemic eviction moratorium expires on June 30th. According to an analysis by think tank the Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10.4 million Americans are currently behind on rent; an April census survey found that out of nearly seven million respondents behind on rent, over three million expect that they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to be evicted within the next two months.
What landlord would stoop so low?
In an announcement today, Airbnb said that it will ban rentals when notified by cities that a listing is new to the market due to a tenant’s inability to pay rent. It added that it’s conducting outreach to “engage cities,” particularly in areas with high eviction rates, but didn’t yet include details on the massive undertaking. (Princeton University’s Eviction Lab data tracks weekly numbers of evictions in 29 cities.) Airbnb plans to keep the policy through the end of 2021 and will review it for a potential extension.
Airbnb told Gizmodo that it does not yet have a separate team in place aside from appointing Senior Policy Development Manager Andrew Kalloch to head the initiative. But it added that the company now collects and remits taxes on behalf of 30,000 jurisdictions in 15 countries and is confident that it can scale up the effort.
For years, renters (particularly low-income and rent-controlled tenants) have alleged that landlords illegally evicting them and later listed their units for high prices on the platform. In 2015, The American Prospect reported that two tenants sued landlords for allegedly inventing legitimate excuses and lying about renovations in order to Airbnb their spaces. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has pursued landlords for the same. Last year, The Cut ran a profile of Loretta Gendville and Gennaro Brooks-Church, the “Eco–Yogi Slumlords of Brooklyn,” who were accused of changing locks and squatting in a tenant’s unit after revenue sources like separate Airbnbs dried up. The city sued them for allegedly illegally evicting at least four tenants.
Unfortunately, the CDC’s eviction moratorium already hurts renters down the road, since they’re still responsible for paying rent at some point, and landlords can charge penalties and interest — likely leaving millions of people in debt. The moratorium has not stopped evictions, and states like New York have implemented their own bans.
And Airbnb might have difficulty getting some cities to participate, such as in Texas, where a federal judge declared the moratorium unconstitutional. In May, a federal judge also ruled that the CDC lacks the authority to enforce the order. Airbnb told Gizmodo that it will not be applying the bans retroactively for previous pandemic evictions.