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Airbnb Hosts Debate on Vaccine Discounts

January 27, 2021

On Airbnb forums, hosts are having heated discussions over whether they can offer discounts to guests of their properties who can show that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The Facebook forum post has garnered thousands of comments from hosts on the short-term rental discussion board.

Some hosts have called the idea of Airbnb “vaccination discounts” as discrimination and a fair housing or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act violation.

But legal experts say otherwise.

“It’s not a violation of HIPAA,” Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University professor who specializes in public health law, told The Daily Beast. “It is certainly lawful to ask if a person has been vaccinated. Businesses can require vaccination as a condition of service. Not only is it lawful to ask, it is ethical. No one has the right to place another person at risk.” Businesses, schools, and childcare centers often request immunization records prior to entry.

But some hosts fear the ethics of offering a discount only to vaccinated guests. Other hosts support the idea of a discount, saying that it will not be precluding anyone from staying in an Airbnb—so not breaking the company’s nondiscrimination policy—but merely offering a discount to those who have been vaccinated.

Airbnb hosts can set their own house rules, prices, and discounts. But the rules must follow Airbnb standards and policies. Airbnb has not made a public announcement on its official stance over the debate from its hosts.

Airbnb announced last year that hosts and guests must abide by its COVID-19 Safety Practices. Those policies include wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and following a five-step enhanced cleaning process.

Some Airbnb hosts are taking more precautions. For example, Thomas David Keho, an Airbnb host for five years, told The Daily Beast that he has installed two ventilation systems for added safety in his property and has upgraded his residence with touchless light switches. He also asks questions to those who want to book: “Can you tell me more about yourself and why you’re visiting Boulder? Are you social distancing? What states have you visited recently? Do you believe that COVID-19 is a hoax?” Keho first posed the question to the Airbnb forum—which prompted the ongoing debate—about offering a 50% discount to vaccinated guests of his property in Boulder, Colo.