Who May Be Held Liable if You’re Injured at an Airbnb Rental?

Airbnb is a great way for homeowners with extra space to earn some cash, and an ideal platform for renters to find comfortable stays in perfect locations. But what happens if someone is injured while staying at an Airbnb?

Hotel guests have the benefit of knowing that the corporation which owns the hotel is responsible for their safety. If you sustain an injury on hotel grounds, you can sue the hotel for compensation. 

The process for obtaining compensation for injuries sustained at an Airbnb is less clear, due to the fact that Airbnb rentals are not owned or managed by Airbnb, but are instead privately owned.

Airbnb acts as a third-party between hosts and guests—can you still sue the company directly?

In 2015, an Airbnb guest fell 10 feet and suffered injuries as the result of a stairway collapse inside his rental. The guest, Justin Carrol, filed a lawsuit against the owners of the rental and Airbnb, alleging that Airbnb owed him damages for the injuries he sustained. The court found that Airbnb is not liable for injuries, as Airbnb is simply an intermediary between the apartment owners and the customers. Because Airbnb only facilitates rental agreements, they are not responsible for performing property inspections, nor are they responsible for injuries that result from failing infrastructure. 

It would be difficult to sue Airbnb for damages with much success. You would have to prove that Airbnb was complacent in the cause of your injury, but because the company does not own any of the listings on their website, it would be an uphill battle. But you should always consult with a personal injury lawyer to best understand who is potentially liable for your injuries in your specific situation. 

Injured Airbnb guests must prove that the Airbnb owner was negligent as defined under premises liability law.

The premises liability law is a standard of safety that property owners—all property owners, including Airbnb rental owners—must adhere to. The law is in place to protect guests from safety hazards that any reasonable owner would take action to mitigate. 

In California, an injured plaintiff must prove:

  1. The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property.
  2. The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property.
  3. The plaintiff was harmed.
  4. The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.

Because you must prove that the property was unsafe, it’s important to take pictures of the location where you sustained injuries. Though it might seem like an afterthought at first, documenting where the injury occurred and the safety hazard that caused the injury can help you win a lawsuit. It’s also prudent to seek medical attention, if your injuries require it. The defendant can claim that a delay in treatment is evidence that your injuries are not a direct result of the Airbnb. 

Airbnb covers their hosts with a $1 million dollar liability policy.

When the company was founded in 2008, hosts did not have the benefit of additional liability coverage. But now, the company offers insurance coverage through Host Protection Insurance, which insures host’s rental properties with a $1,000,000 liability policy. 

According to Airbnb’s official Host Protection Insurance webpage:

Here are some examples of what the Host Protection Insurance program should cover:

A guest breaks their wrist after slipping on the rug and brings a claim for the injury against the host.

A guest is working out on the treadmill in the gym of the apartment building. The treadmill breaks and the guest is injured when they fall off. They bring a claim for the injury against the host and the landlord.

A guest accidentally drops their suitcase on a third party’s foot in the building lobby. The third party brings a claim for the injury against the host and the landlord of the host’s building.

Airbnb’s policy clearly protects hosts in the event of guest injury, but there is a catch. The policy can only be triggered after the host depletes their homeowners insurance or tenants insurance policy. Host Protection Insurance is secondary coverage that won’t kick in unless the owner’s primary insurance does not cover the host. 

Many homeowners insurance policies contain exclusions which limit the ability of homeowners to use their property for commercial use, like renting out the space on Airbnb. If you are a homeowner with a listing on Airbnb, consider contacting your insurance company to update your policy so that it covers injuries sustained during commercial use of the property. If you’re a guest, think about reaching out to the rental owner to see if they have homeowners insurance that will cover you if an injury occurs. If they don’t, it might be best to stay elsewhere.

Sustaining an injury as a guest at an Airbnb is certain to put a damper on your vacation. Beyond that, it could be a challenge to collect damages. You’ll have to determine whether you are covered by the homeowner’s insurance or by Airbnb’s insurance. And, in some cases, your claim will be dependent on if you can prove that the rental owner was negligent in leaving their premises in an unsafe condition. 

If you sustained injuries at an Airbnb, the lawyers at Penney and Associates stand ready to help. We are experienced personal injury attorneys that work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a no-obligation legal consultation.

This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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