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Airbnb agrees to let California watch for racist hosts

A voluntary agreement between Airbnb and California officials will bring scrutiny to hosts accused of racial discrimination.

California will be checking into racial discrimination by Airbnb hosts.
Jaap Arriens, NurPhoto via Getty Images

Following a 10-month investigation, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing will be able to test California Airbnb hosts for racial discrimination, DFEH said Thursday.

The voluntary agreement reached by Airbnb and DFEH means the state of California can do fair housing tests on hosts who have three or more listings and have had discrimination complaints lodged against them. A fair housing test involves trained people posing as potential renters, or creating renter profiles with certain characteristics in order to see if the host in question is violating fair housing laws, according to a press release from DFEH.

"We will continue to work collaboratively with Airbnb to prevent racial discrimination by its hosts," said DFEH Director Kevin Kish in a statement.

Airbnb has been criticized for discrimination on its platform. One recent example, Airbnb banned a host who allegedly turned a guest away from a Big Bear, California, rental because the guest was Asian. To combat this critique, Airbnb has been working to show it's the good guy in the hospitality world.

In blog post, Airbnb General Counsel Rob Chesnut said the agreement builds on ongoing efforts.

"Fighting discrimination is fundamental to our mission and we are committed to creating a community that is open to everyone," Chesnut said.

The company will notify users who complain of racial discrimination in California of their right to file a complaint with DFEH, as well as report on guest acceptance by race to DFEH.