Who’s liable for an injury at an

Airbnb? Airbnb and similar house-sharing services can be a great way for homeowners to earn extra cash and for travelers to enjoy the “comforts of home” while paying less than they would for a hotel. But what happens if someone is injured at an Airbnb-type rental? Hotel guests generally know that a hotel has a legal duty to keep them safe. When guests slip on poorly maintained stairs, take a fall because a railing has come loose, or are hit on the head by a falling shelf, they can generally sue the hotel – and can assume that the hotel can afford to compensate them for their injury. But it’s not as clear with Airbnb – and the “sharing economy” model is so new that many of the legal issues are still being worked out. Unfortunately, the fact is that injuries may be much more likely to occur at an Airbnb rental than at a hotel. Unlike a hotel, an Airbnb “host” doesn’t typically have a full-time maintenance and housekeeping crew, employ lifeguards and night security staff, undergo regular electrical and fire safety inspections, routinely monitor childproofing issues, and so on. So what happens if someone is hurt? You might assume that the person could sue Airbnb itself. But the problem is that Airbnb’s “Terms of Service” – which guests have to agree to when they sign up – say that you can’t sue Airbnb for an injury. (Most every other home-sharing business has a similar contract.) In theory, it might be possible for a guest to get around this provision, but it could be very difficult. So more likely, the guest would sue the host for compensation. In most states, the guest would be considered a “business invitee” of the host. That means that the host must exercise a very great degree of care to keep the guest safe. In other words, an Airbnb host would likely be held to a similar legal standard of care as a hotel, department store, or other business. Many hosts assume that if anything happens, they’ll be covered by their homeowner’s insurance. But they might be surprised to discover that that’s not true. Most homeowner’s insurance policies exclude coverage for “business activities” operated out of a home. And presumably, renting your home for a profit is a business activity. Some homeowner’s policies allow you to rent your home once a year, or for a limited number of days per year. But even then, the insurance company might require you to notify it of the rental in advance, or to purchase a separate endorsement. Personal umbrella policies might not cover a host for a business activity either. If an Airbnb host is a tenant rather than a homeowner, it gets even more complicated. Some tenants have renter’s insurance, but renter’s insurance generally doesn’t cover business activities. An injured guest might be able to sue the landlord, but a landlord might get off the hook if he or she didn’t know the tenant was renting the property on Airbnb, or if such rentals were prohibited in the lease. Also, many landlords’ insurance policies exclude coverage for short-term, home-sharing-type sublets. Recently, Airbnb announced that it would provide hosts with up to $1 million in liability protection if they get sued by a guest. That’s a welcome development, but some other home-sharing companies have not followed suit. If you use Airbnb or a similar service when you travel, you might want to confirm that the host is covered by insurance. And if you’re injured, you’ll want to speak to a lawyer right away about what options you might have for being compensated. If you’re a host, you’ll want to think carefully about your insurance coverage. A lawyer may be able to help you understand your policies and what additional protections you may need.

About John Fagan

John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981. John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder. In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home. John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation. Professional Activities John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates. Service to the Community John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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