Another host, Anthony Farmer, filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Airbnb in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in November. The suit, which is attempting to override Airbnb’s arbitration terms, accuses the company of breaching its contract and fiduciary duty and violating consumer protection laws.
Christopher Nulty, an Airbnb spokesman, said the company’s policy put public health and safety first, which would ultimately help hosts “by maintaining high guest loyalty and demand for Airbnb listings.” He said Mr. Farmer’s suit was without merit.
‘Back to our roots’
In May, Airbnb announced that it would go “back to our roots” by focusing on “everyday people who host their homes.”
That position has business advantages. Professional rental operators with many listings can appear to take away housing and turn neighborhoods into tourist zones, causing politicians and neighborhood associations to impose regulations. A family renting out a spare bedroom often appears less threatening.
In a financial prospectus in November, Airbnb said 90 percent of its hosts were “individual hosts,” defined as those who created their listings directly on the site instead of using specialized software to sign up. But according to Transparent, a software provider for short-term rental operators, just 37 percent of Airbnb’s listings were managed by people with one property as of September. Roughly half of the listings were managed by hosts with two to 20 properties, and 14 percent by hosts with 21 or more.
So when Airbnb emphasized the individual hosts, it further annoyed its professional hosts.
“Their business is built on professional hosts, in a way, but they don’t often say that,” Mr. Vail, the operator in Columbus, said. “They don’t want that message to be the headline.”
Mr. Nulty said Airbnb’s focus on “core hosts” did not come at the cost of professional hosts. He said professional hosts were represented on its Host Advisory Board, a group the company created in October so hosts can meet with Airbnb executives.