Criminal checks now required for anyone offering Airbnb, Vrbo or other bookings in Columbus

The city of Columbus now requires that anyone who rents out houses or apartments short-term on websites like Airbnb, Vrbo or must submit to a state criminal background check.

Anyone renting out houses, apartments or condos in Columbus short-term on Airbnb, Vrbo, or the like must now undergo state criminal background checks before being issued a license, the city council unanimously mandated Monday evening.

Previously, the city allowed the booking websites to conduct their own background checks. But because those checks “vary considerably,” according to the city, all checks now will be conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and involve submitting fingerprints.

he move is designed to protect unsuspecting visitors to Columbus from potentially unscrupulous accommodation providers, said Councilman Rob Dorans, the measure’s sponsor. It currently affects more than 1,600 Airbnb and 670 Vrbo listers plus others.

With some units being as simple an operation as a room in someone’s house, “from a public-safety standpoint, we want to make sure that folks have passed a background check, to make sure that potential renters come to the city, utilize the short-term rental, are not putting themselves in a bad position.”

The requirement applies to the unit’s owner “and potentially anyone who has access to the unit,” such as property managers and maintenance workers, Dorans said.

The new requirement wasn’t driven by any specific incident or property owner, he said, but rather is an attempt to standardize the requirement so that the bar is not allowed to be set too low by any internet rental platforms.

The ordinance says the city’s Licensing Section, an arm of the Department of Public Safety, will flag the director of public safety about any past violations for things such as felony drug activity, prostitution and human trafficking, or gang-related activity, which would allow the director to deny a license. FULL ARTICLE

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