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Airbnb hosts upset over company's photo change

Posted at 7:06 AM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 16:05:41-04

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Home renting service Airbnb has changed the way people vacation -- but the company has taken its share of hits.

Most recently, there were several reports of hidden cameras found in homes around the world.

The company also has dealt with a discrimination lawsuit, and ended up changing its photo policies afterward. The change came at the end of 2018.

Airbnb has issued a statement saying in part that the change came after discussions with hosts and guests, and concerns about the "potential for photos to be misused" in a way that violates their non-discrimination policy.

But some hosts say this change is affecting their livelihood, and they're not sure how they're going to get by.

Scottsdale resident Elide Morgan had recently become a single mom and wanted to stay home with her son. She turned to Airbnb to supplement her income, renting out a spare bedroom in her home.

She says it isn't much, but it has everything a guest would need.

"I provide a little luggage rack...It's very simple but comfortable," Morgan comments.

Things were good, until the company made a photo-sharing policy change late last year.

Realtor Christine Espinoza says, "They completely took the photos out because they don't want hosts discriminating against a guest."

In 2016, a man sued the company after a host denied his request.

He claims he was denied because he was black. He even set up two fake profiles with pictures of white men and then requested a stay, and both of those requests were approved.

Espinoza says, unfortunately, she has heard of things like this happening before.

"I know that there's people who say that they felt like they had been discriminated against, and it probably does happen," she adds.

The company has stated hosts may request a picture, but only after they've already approved the booking.

But that's too little too late for Morgan, who says it's a matter of safety.

"Now no reviews, no picture...I don't. It's just an auto decline for me. And so now it's decreasing the income that's coming in," Morgan comments.

She's stopped accepting most requests, unless someone has a good history of renting.

And now she's faced with a tough decision on what to do next. "It doesn't seem fair. It's not equitable that they can see me, I can't see them."

Morgan says she just wants the policy to go back to how it was. But the company has made no comment indicating it will reverse its decision on the policy.