Airbnb uses background checks to weed out sex offenders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville is one of the world’s top destinations and one of Airbnb’s most popular markets for users.

Airbnb is a short term rental website that allows users to book rooms or entire living spaces from hosts who own property in locations around the world.

Nashville is listed as one of Airbnb’s five most common tourist destinations. For the July 4, weekend Airbnb estimated guests would spend about $1.3 million in bookings.

Todd Sisson and his husband Lucas started operating an Airbnb in a renovated attic space of their East Nashville home.

“Having stayed in Airbnbs I always liked the shared industry,” Sisson said. “When we were looking for homes we weren’t particularly looking for one where we could have an Airbnb available.”

He continued, “When we saw an unfinished attic space that was the first thing that came to mind in a city like Nashville with such a tourist industry.”

Sisson and Lucas are owner-occupied Airbnb hosts. They are permitted by the city and pay taxes on their reservations.

Other hosts are not owner-occupied, so guests may never interact with the host.

“We have heard in areas with non-owner-occupied Airbnbs there are issues of noise, litter or parties,” Sisson said. “We have had great experiences with our guests and they are very upfront with us.”

With so many guests coming in and out of neighborhoods there are concerns about criminals, including sex offenders renting homes next to families who do not know the sex offender is there.

Tennessee law requires sex offenders to register with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office within 48 hours of “establishing a physical presence at a particular location.”

If that person is only in town for 24 hours, they could fly under the radar.

News 2 checked with Airbnb to find out what their website does to insure sex offenders are not booking rooms and homes.

According to Airbnb’s website, they check databases of public, state and county criminal records. They also do local background checks for registered sex offenders.

Airbnb also checks the OFAC list.

The OFAC list, or Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities.

But the background checks do have limitations Airbnb warns users about on its website.

The site does not guarantee a background check on all hosts or guest. Also, guests who are going to be with the person booking the stay are not checked.

In order for the background check to be accurate, the user must provide an accurate full, correct legal name and their date of birth.

Also, the background check is only done once per user, so later arrests and convictions would not be reported to Airbnb.

Airbnb also has a list of reasons to remove a user, including if the person is convicted of a violent crime.

If Airbnb finds out about certain sexual offenses including serious sex offenses and prostitution.

Felony drug related offenses and identity theft are also reason for a user to be banned from using Airbnb.

“We have not had any concerns with people coming in that we thought may not be safe for our space or neighborhood,” Sisson said. “As an owner-occupied Airbnb there is an opportunity to meet people, get a good feeling for them, get to know what is going on with their stay and what they are going to be doing.”

Sisson and his husband plan to continue to rent out their space on Airbnb and are considered superhosts.

According to Airbnb, superhosts are experienced hosts who provide a shining example for other hosts, and extraordinary experiences for their guests.

Once a host reaches superhost status, a badge will automatically appear on their listing and profile to help users identify them.

You can check for sex offenders in your area by going to the TBI’s Sex Offender Registry.

You can also check the national sex offender registry operated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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