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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.

Homeowner Liability for AirBNB Guest Injuries

Online hospitality marketplaces like AirBNB and VRBO have radically disrupted the hotel business. Property owners love the chance to offset the cost of ownership of homes and vacation getaways, all within the scope of a well-established rental system. At the same time, owners need to be careful to take stock of how having paying guests may affect their legal liability in the event that a guest is injured during their stay.

Homeowner liability for guest injuries, in general

When someone is injured at someone else’s home the usual question is whether the homeowner committed an act of negligence that caused the guest’s injury. For negligence to apply, the homeowner must have owed the guest a duty of care and breached that duty. Ordinarily a homeowner owes a guest fairly limited duty of care. Specifically, homeowners are not required to continuously ensure that their homes are free of dangerous conditions that might lead to an injury. For example, a homeowner who lives in a place with freezing conditions doesn’t need to constantly look out for buildup of ice on a walkway. On the other hand, once a homeowner knows about a dangerous condition there is a duty to warn guests about the problem and to make reasonable efforts to resolve it. The character of a homeowner’s legal duty can change if a guest is paying the homeowner for the privilege of using the property. When someone pays for lodging the legal duty can be more strict than would otherwise be the case. A homeowner who does not take care to inspect the property for risky conditions takes a chance that a visitor will be injured and sue.

Insurance considerations

The heightened risk means that homeowners should take care to analyze their insurance policies to ensure that they are covered against liability. AirBNB covers homeowners with a Host Protection Insurance policy. The AirBNB policy provides up to $1 million per incident. But there are some important limitations that the homeowner may still be responsible for paying. For example, the policy does not cover loss of earnings. It also does not cover things like a guest’s car, loss of electronic data, or injuries that the host should have expected to happen (such as by ignoring unsafe ice buildup on the front porch). A guest who suffers an excluded injury likely will sue the homeowner to recover whatever cannot be recovered from the AirBNB insurance policy. As such, the homeowner should not rely solely on the coverage provided by the online marketplace. Hosts should also verify that they are adequately protected by their homeowner’s insurance policy. Some policies may not cover rentals, and some may also carve out exclusions that are similar to those carved out by the rental site’s policy. If there are gaps left over, the homeowner must decide if bearing the excluded risks is worth it. Homeowners should also bear in mind that in many jurisdictions short-term rentals are prohibited by law or subject to specific licensing, zoning, or other rules. An insurer may be quick to deny coverage for a rental that violates local laws. In addition, breaking such laws could expose the host to fines and even criminal prosecution.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases for over 45 years. If you have been injured during a stay at a short-term rental or if you are a host with questions about your potential liability, call us today for a free, confidential attorney consultation. We’re available at 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.