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New legal action from Airbnb after deadly Sunnyvale party shooting

New legal action from Airbnb after deadly Sunnyvale party shooting
Photo Credit: Canva
By Wesley Severson - Published on August 18, 2021.

San Francisco-based Airbnb is now suing the guest who apparently threw a massive and deadly party at a home they booked in Sunnyvale on August 7th. Shots ended up ringing out around 10 p.m. leaving 18-year-old Elias Elhania dead and another guest badly injured. No arrests have been made and no suspects have been identified. Officials have not released the name of the person who rented the house on Navarro Drive.

Airbnb claims the unauthorized house party had up to 200 young attendees who were drinking and using drugs which violates the company’s community standards and terms of service. Airbnb also claims the home was booked under false pretenses. Mayor Larry Klein told the Mercury News, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety is investigating the home’s owner and the person who rented it. “The host is also responsible. They violated our local short-term rental rules and must face consequences for their negligence,” Klein said.

The Sunnyvale party, which was promoted on social media with the name “Turn Up Pt. 2,” is just one of many nationwide where shootings have broken out. Five people were killed at a Halloween party at an Airbnb rental home in Orinda two years ago. Strict new rules against parties were implemented after that incident but the Sunnyvale shooting proves that huge challenges still remain within Airbnb and city governments to try and stop these huge parties from happening so easily.

Airbnb began filing suit against guests who break the no-parties rule last summer, after another shooting incident at an unauthorized rental house party in Sacramento County. 

“Where is the responsibility here? Yes, Airbnb has a responsibility. Yes, the city and homeowners have the responsibility. Who enforces them and where do those boundaries lie?” says San Francisco State University hospitality and tourism management professor Brian Aday speaking to the Mercury News. The city of Sunnyvale limits the number of people in each Airbnb rental to four. Hosts are also required to be present at the rentals but the rules are rarely fully enforced.

The Sunnyvale Director of Public Safety Phan Ngo told Mercury news that the home where the party happened was never registered with the city planning department which is also a requirement. “What recently happened in the city of Sunnyvale highlights the issues most cities are facing. You have somebody operating their home as a short-term rental, they have it on a platform, but they’re not registered with the city, and unfortunately, the homicide occurs and we’re made aware of the situation,” Ngo said.

Along with the new legal action, Airbnb also announced this week that it will tighten down restrictions on its rental properties for the upcoming Halloween holiday.