Airbnb safety again in the spotlight after deadly Sunnyvale party shooting

Airbnb safety again in the spotlight after deadly Sunnyvale party shooting
Photo Credit: Canva
By Wesley Severson - Published on August 09, 2021.

The safety of Airbnb rentals is once again being questioned after a deadly shooting inside a rented party house in Sunnyvale around 10 p.m. Saturday night. The shooting left one 18-year-old dead and another person injured. Sunnyvale Police have confirmed that the home in a quiet neighborhood off Navarro Drive was not permitted to be rented out because of city regulations.

There were around 200 young people who were drinking and partying inside the home at the time of the shooting. Police say most of the attendees were 16 to 19 years old, and the party was advertised by some San Jose high school students on social media.

Airbnb cracked down on people using their rental homes as party houses after five people were shot and killed during a Halloween party in Orinda in 2019. Just over a year later, a shooting inside an Airbnb property in Sacramento left three people injured. Airbnb implemented new rules in response but since then there have been similar incidents in Atlanta, Houston, and Las Vegas.

The name of the person who rented the home has not been released but according to Sunnyvale Police, the homeowner failed to register the home as a rental for Airbnb which is a city requirement. Mercury News reports that the Airbnb host who rents out the Sunnyvale home bans parties in her rules for the property — but neighbors say the home is frequently rented out and the owner lives out of state. The listing is no longer active.

Sunnyvale City Councilmember Mason Fong told ABC7 News, "I want to know what is legally possible for us to restrict and require from a safety perspective of Airbnb."

One neighbor told ABC 7 that they hope the person who rented the home is held accountable, especially if the person knew that teens would use it to throw a party. “There’s no accountability there. If they were there for seven days then I think they’d be respectful but what happened there the other night, that’s what happens with one-night rentals.” 

It’s unclear who could face charges once police analyze all the information on the rental. The San Francisco-based company released this statement: “Airbnb bans parties, and we condemn the senseless gun violence that took place in Sunnyvale. Our dedicated Safety team is urgently working to support those impacted by this tragedy, and we are working with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety to offer our assistance with their investigation.”

Police had showed up to the scene before the shooting occurred, but they say they were waiting for more information on the home and extra resources before they went inside to break it up. So far, no motive for the shooting or suspect descriptions have been released. The investigation is still in the preliminary stages and more information should be released in the coming days.