As many well-traveled individuals know, short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb are often a win-win situation for everyone involved — the renter gets an affordable place to stay and the owner/occupier gets to earn a little extra money.
Unfortunately, however, there can be a downside too, particularly when dangerous conditions are present at the rental property. So, who is responsible when a traveler using a short-term rental is seriously injured because of these unsafe or dangerous conditions? The owner? The booking company?
Assessing liability, generally
Under a legal principle known as “premises liability,” properly owners have a basic duty to exercise reasonable care to keep guests safe from preventable harm so long as the visitors are lawfully on the owner’s property.
For example, if the property owner knew, or should have known, about an unsafe condition on the property, but failed to take reasonable steps to address it — such as fixing the hazard or at least warning guests about it — the owner may be legally responsible for any injuries that occur because of this unsafe condition. Therefore, if you are a guest at someone’s home, and you suffer an injury linked to an unsafe condition, you may be able to seek compensation from the owner, which would possibly be paid by the homeowner’s insurance company.
Hurdles to receiving compensation
However, it is important to keep in mind that things may work a little differently when short-term vacation rentals are involved. For instance, many homeowners’ insurance policies contain an exclusion for rental business activities — meaning the company insuring the home may deny a claim if the home was being used as a rental property at the time the injury occurred.
So, what does this mean for someone who is injured while renting the property through a short-term vacation rental company like Airbnb? Well, it likely means the homeowner’s insurance company will argue that they don’t have to pay anything for their injuries.
Fortunately, though, the owner’s insurance policy may not be the only option for covering damages related to injuries sustained by short-term renters. In fact, many short-term rental companies, including Airbnb, offer significant liability insurance coverage — in some cases, coverage up to $1 million. This coverage is often designed specifically to protect hosts (i.e., the property owners/occupiers) against third-party claims of bodily injury.
Therefore, if a guest suffers an injury while renting a property and subsequently files suit against the property owner/occupier due to unsafe conditions, the insurance provided by the short-term rental company may cover the damages, even if the homeowners’ insurance company doesn’t.
Does it sound complicated? It is — so get help today.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that every situation is a different. Indeed, depending on the companies involved and the insurance coverage offered, the legal options available may vary a great deal. This is why it is so important to contact knowledgeable legal guidance as soon as possible.
At Edelman & Edelman, P.C., our attorneys have a great deal of experience with these types of cases. Let us help you today.