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Airbnb Accidents and Injuries: Allocating Liability

Friday, January 12, 2018By Richard Alexander

The growth of the internet economy has posed many legal challenges for new ventures. Airbnb, the broker-based online service that offers leases or short-term lodging to customers, has raised some legal issues involving civil liability, restrictions on subleases, and violations of municipal codes.

One of the biggest uncertainties for Airbnb participants is the allocation of liability if the renter has an accident on the premises. In a hotel, when a guest is injured as a result of the hotel’s failure to maintain safe conditions, the hotel is liable. The answers are not as clear in rentals of personal homes. An injury in an Airbnb rental could impose liability on various parties including Airbnb itself, the owner of the property, and the landlord who owns the property that is being rented.

Liability of Airbnb property owners.

All property owners owe their guests a duty of care to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe manner and to warn anyone who enters the property of known dangers. If a person is lawfully on the premises and is injured by an unsafe condition, the owner could be liable for his injuries. The owner’s duty of care is satisfied if he repairs the defect or gives adequate notice to guests. There are many different conditions that could cause harm including slippery surfaces, items on the property that could cause falls, and defective locks that may invite crime. Even dogs can be a source of liability if an injury occurs.

Recovering from property owners.

Although property owners owe these duties to their guests, it is incorrect to assume that homeowners are covered by their insurance policies in case of an accident. Most insurance policies exclude injuries incurred by guests when the home is being used for business purposes. Defining what constitutes a business activity is murky, but some policies now specifically exclude claims from homeowners who are Airbnb hosts. Without insurance coverage, most homeowners would be reluctant to rent their homes. Airbnb has responded to this problem with Airbnb Host Protection Insurance. This policy provides every host with $1 million dollars in liability coverage for any injuries incurred during the rental stay.

What happens when a renter is acting as an Airbnb host?

If the individual renting the property to an Airbnb guest is himself a tenant, he must be sure that the landlord permits subleases. Even so, renter’s insurance typically does not cover business activities. In some cases, the landlord could be responsible for injuries to a guest if he is found to be negligent in maintaining the property. But the landlord could disclaim responsibility if he had no knowledge that the property was being used as a business.

Does Airbnb have any liability?

As a policy matter, Airbnb renounces any liability for injuries to renters. It is generally difficult to circumvent this limitation. However, if a guest can show that Airbnb failed to adequately vet properties or their owners, or made false representations regarding the property, he can sue Airbnb although recovery is unlikely.

If you or a member of your family was injured because of the negligence of someone else, contact Alexander Law Group, LLC. Our exceptional personal injury lawyers will be sure you get the maximum compensation possible. Call 888.777.1776, or contact us online.

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