Investigation Finds Airbnb Hosts With Felony Records Despite Company Requiring Background Checks

Investigation Finds Airbnb Hosts With Felony Records Despite Company Requiring Background Checks

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — People convicted of serious crimes such as drug dealing, kidnapping and firearms charges are offering rooms for rent through Airbnb, even though the company claims to check public state and county criminal records, CBS2 News has found.


CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein caught up with an Airbnb host renting a room to our undercover producer in North Hollywood. The host is a convicted felon.


His convictions for drugs should have precluded him from being a host, according to Airbnb’s own rules.


We’re not revealing his identity because he says he’s turned his life around after his convictions that go back more than a decade.


“Does Airbnb know about your criminal history?” Goldstein asked. “Did you tell Airbnb about that?”


“I don’t think they even asked,” the host said.


The company says it removes users if the background checks show certain convictions. Such as a violent crime.


Zameer Azam served 10 years in prison for felony kidnapping and beating the mother of his child. He was released in 2014. It’s the same year he joined Airbnb hosting a home in Daly City, outside of San Francisco.


When we told Carol Escilaere from France about her Airbnb host, it shed some light on her harrowing experience at Azam’s unit.


“A guy came in the bedroom, and he was looking at me and he approached me,” Escilaere said. “Now that I know that, that’s incredible.”


She called the police after some men in Azam’s Airbnb walked in on her in the bedroom and also in the shower, according to her friend.


While Azam is listed as the host with Airbnb, Escilaere says she didn’t see him when she was inside the house. No charges were filed.


Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz has been a vocal proponent of regulating Airbnb.


“Airbnb’s whole business model in L.A. is violating all of our current laws,” Koretz said.


Airbnb says by law it can’t go back more than seven years for criminal records, even though it doesn’t say that on its website. And it says the people we found shows the system may not be working.


“At Airbnb, safety is our No. 1 priority,” Airbnb spokesperson Nick Shapiro said. “Unfortunately for us and everyone else, the background system is broken. It’s not been modernized or updated in quite some time. A lot of counties don’t put the info online.”


CBS2 News was able find the convicted hosts with research done by a group of hotel industry and residents opposing Airbnb, but we independently verified every name and criminal history.