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Airbnb to let neighbors give feedback on hosts, ‘party houses’

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Yuji Nakamura, Eric Newcomer and Pavel Alpeyev

 Airbnb Inc. will soon give people renting out rooms and homes through its website a better way to find out how the strangers showing up at their properties are behaving.

A new tool will let neighbors weigh in with feedback on Airbnb properties nearby, Yasuyuki Tanabe, the head of Airbnb in Japan, said at a government panel in Tokyo on Monday. The feature will be rolled out globally in a few weeks, he said.

It’s no coincidence that Airbnb chose to unveil it in Japan, the company’s fastest-growing market for inbound visitors. The archipelago’s tourism boom has created a shortage of hotel rooms and fueled more than 30,000 listings as of February, but Airbnb rentals are causing strains in residential areas where neighbors live in close proximity, often in houses just inches apart.

“One of the most important issues facing the sharing economy is how the people choosing to take part in it co-exist with those that aren’t,” Tanabe said at the public forum. “Our first step in this direction is to give neighbors the opportunity to comment or complain.”

The feature, set to debut next month, will let neighbors enter comments in an online form. Feedback will be reviewed by Airbnb’s customer-support team, who will then take action as necessary. Airbnbdidn’t say whether the information will be made public or if the identities of neighbors will be disclosed.

Good Fences

Airbnb’s rapidly growing service has sometimes pitted neighbor against neighbor and landlord against tenant. Cities have puzzled over how to regulate the startup, which was last valued at $25.5 billion. New York City has scrutinized Airbnb and taken steps to push back against commercial renters. San Francisco, Airbnb’s hometown, voted down a divisive ballot initiative that would have restricted home sharing in the city. Airbnb neighbors the world over have complained of “party houses” that attract rowdy renters during major sporting events.

Monday’s government hearing in Tokyo was held to discuss regulatory reform of home-sharing services in Japan. Local governments recently began ratifying Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s guidelines on regulating the service, a move that has left some Airbnb hosts concerned.

Tanabe discussed several initiatives for Airbnb in Japan. It will collect taxes from hosts and introduce a Japanese language service to communicate with the police, he said. It will also create a system for rapidly relaying information about disasters or disease outbreaks.