Second Airbnb Operator Surrenders License Over Party, Gunshots

This house on South Madison Street was the scene of an Airbnb party on November 9, 2019.
This house on South Madison Street was the scene of an Airbnb party on November 9, 2019. Google Maps
A second Airbnb operator has surrendered her license to the City of Denver over allegations that her short-term rental was the scene of a party thrown by guests. Similar to a previous incident that led another operator to surrender her license, this party, which took place in November 2019, also devolved into shots fired by guests.

Madeline Philley, an Airbnb operator in the Belcaro neighborhood, agreed on January 27 to a settlement with city officials that requires her to surrender her license for a year. The settlement also means that a planned administrative hearing, during which Philley could have argued her innocence about allegedly violating city law, will not happen. Philley had been accused of having a short-term rental that "harmed the health, welfare and safety of a neighborhood," which is a violation of the city's short-term rental rules. Philley did not return a request for comment for this story.

Just eleven days before Philley struck her agreement with city officials, short-term rental operator Shannon Baker also forfeited her license for a year following a raucous party at her Capitol Hill home thrown by guests on November 1, 2019, that saw gunfire.

The party at Philley's house, on South Madison Street, occurred on the night of November 9 and early morning of November 10, according to the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, which regulates short-term rentals.

At 10:26 that night, Denver police officers went to the home after receiving a "report of a disturbance." Less than a half-hour after that call, police received another noise complaint about the house, then received three calls about shots fired. Police eventually found six 9mm shell casings near the home. It is unclear who fired the shots.

Police spoke with a neighbor who told police that he had dialed 911 after seeing a group of individuals "getting loud in the roadway." The neighbor said these individuals got into two cars and "started shooting in an unknown direction," before driving away.

Another neighbor told police that parties happened frequently at the home, and that "many different people [came] and [left] at all hours of the day."

Late last year, Airbnb announced a policy banning open-invite parties, like ones advertised on social media, and any large parties in apartment buildings and condos. The policy announcement came about a month after five people were shot and killed at a huge party at an Airbnb in California.

Excise and Licenses has been cracking down on alleged short-term rental bad actors. The city requires that short-term rentals be an operator's primary residence, a rule that is meant to discourage parties and also effectively prohibit people from buying up the city's housing stock solely for short-term rental purposes.

As part of its enforcement, Excise and Licenses has been sending out affidavits for short-term rental operators to sign attesting that their property is also their primary residence. According to the department, hundreds of operators have either withdrawn their applications or surrendered their licenses since the affidavit program was started in March 2019. Last summer, four short-term rental operators were charged with lying on these affidavits.

Excise and Licenses is considering updates to city code that would strengthen rules surrounding short-term rentals.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.