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Potential Guest Liability in Short-Term Stay Arrangements

Most guests who stay in short-term rentals arranged through online marketplaces like AirBNB or VRBO can be trusted to take good care of the property. Hosts collect security deposits to protect themselves against minor things like broken plates and dings in drywall. But a guest can do more harm than these simple things.

What sort of harm can a guest cause? Consider the circumstances. Guests in short-term rentals usually have exclusive use of the property. In theory this means that they can do a lot of things that a homeowner might not expect. In cases where the damage is not reported it can lead to significant dangers for others who come on the property. For example:

  • Damaging electrical fittings and creating a fire or electrocution risk.
  • Leaving a gas stove turned on.
  • Breaking a stair or bannister, creating a fall risk.
  • Damaging a boat or other vehicle that comes with the rental.
  • Deliberately setting traps designed to injure others.

Homeowners should make sure that these kinds of risks are accounted for in their insurance policies. This is especially important for someone who plans to rent without an intermediary hospitality firm like AirBNB. Even if working with a hospitality site and protected by its insurance, it’s important to understand the restrictions and limitations of the policy.

If a guest should create conditions that lead to someone getting hurt, it will be important to preserve evidence of the guest’s negligence so that they can be pursued in court. This will be important even if an insurance policy will cover all of the costs associated with the injury—the insurer may want to pursue legal action to recover its costs. If insurance will only cover certain costs and not others, the homeowner may have no choice but to join the litigation to pursue compensation directly.

In some cases the homeowner may also need to file a police report. Whether this is necessary will depend on the nature of the harm done. Intermediary sites may require hosts to file police reports as part of their insurance coverage. Certainly in cases where a guest has behaved maliciously, by deliberately causing damage or creating a dangerous condition, a police report is warranted.

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. If you are hosting guests in short-term rentals and you have questions about how to best protect yourself against risk, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.