I was banned from Airbnb over a 'minor crime' committed a DECADE ago – even though I've used service for years | The Sun
A WOMAN has been banned from Airbnb for LIFE after a background check flagged up an offence she committed nearly a decade ago.
Bethany Hallam, 32, was stunned when she received the explosive email just three hours after booking a pad in Miami, Florida.
The sports fan, from Pittsburgh, had booked her "dream birthday trip" to the coast for five nights to catch a few pivotal football games in late October.
But on Tuesday she was informed her £1,030 accommodation had abruptly been cancelled and refunded by the getaway giant.
Bethany had been using the rental service for several years before they suddenly informed her she was banned from the platform.
Airbnb notified her they had found a "criminal records match" while performing an "evaluation" of her account.
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The company told Bethany the discovery meant she would be dealt a lifetime ban – despite the offence being nine years ago.
The frustrated 32-year-old was horrified by the harsh ruling in relation to an offence back in 2013.
She was jailed for five months for drug possession after she was caught with suboxone, a medicine to treat dependence on opioids.
But her time behind bars gave Bethany the push to turn her life around – seeing her become a councillor in Allegheny County.
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She explained: "After I got out of jail I put all the energy I used to put into getting high back into my community.
"I got out of jail, got into recovery and then got into politics."
So she could hardly believe that Airbnb had dug up her old life and were seemingly punishing her for it nearly a decade on.
Any convictions on her record were from before 2015 – when Airbnb brought in its criminal background check policy in the US.
Bethany continued: "I know my record because I talk about it a lot.
"For them to ban me for that — it was confusing. What are the guidelines for who gets banned?"
But she was even more baffled as she had used the booking site for years without any issues.
'SHOCK AND FRUSTRATION'
The customer shared a screenshot of the email exchange on social media which later went viral, prompting the platform to contact her.
In a dramatic U-turn, Airbnb then unbanned Bethany, allowing her to use their service again.
But the scorned councillor said: "I don’t really care about me being reinstated, my reaction was more shock and frustration.
"I am more concerned about everyone else who isn’t an elected official, and doesn’t have a social media platform to help them get reinstated.
"So many people are discriminated against because of their past, reversing the ban doesn't solve the problem, I see it as a PR stunt.
"Airbnb can think that I will just shut up and go away because I was reinstated, but I am going to keep fighting them."
She claims that a string of disgruntled users have contacted her complaining of similar scenarios in wake of the incident.
Airbnb can think that I will just shut up and go away because I was reinstated, but I am going to keep fighting them.
According to their website, Airbnb conduct background check's on hosts and guest in both the United States and India.
It states: "We check certain databases of public state and county criminal records as well as state and national sex offender registries."
They explain removal from their platform depends on the severity of the offence, meaning "lesser crimes like disorderly conduct or marijuana possession" will not impact a customer's account.
But they warn users convicted of the likes of burglary, larceny, fraud, murder, terrorism or rape may face permanent removal.
It adds: "Other crimes may result in further review, removal, or ineligibility for some time after the offense if it happened within a certain period."
Airbnb's Communication Director Ben Breit said the firm uses background checks to ensure the safety of hosts and customers.
He said users may be banned if they have "certain convictions, or have multiple prior convictions," adding that Bethany's account was reinstated based on their appeals process.
A spokesman for the company said: "This has been resolved with the guest, and we have fully reinstated their account.
"For the safety of our community, Airbnb runs background checks in the US only and may take action to remove people with certain convictions, or who have multiple prior convictions.
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"We do not run background checks in the UK.
"We understand that there may be a number of reasons why someone may have a criminal conviction on their record, so we developed an evidence-based appeals process that takes into account the type of crime and evidence of rehabilitation when considering reinstatement."
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