When an injury occurs at a short-term rental property (e.g. Airbnb), can the injured party recover damages from the property owner, the rental app/service, or both?
Who’s to Blame When an Airbnb Goes Awry? Premises Liability and Short-Term Rentals
While you may be able to take a vacation, gravity never does. If you slip and fall on the freshly mopped floor of a hotel lobby, it is pretty clear that the hotel proprietor is responsible for the condition of the floor. But what if you fall down the narrow, railing-less stairs of a short-term rental you found on a platform like VRBO or Airbnb? Can you sue the platform that helped you rent the property?
The short answer is: No, you cannot sue Airbnb for your injury. But, you still have options to recover damages when you are injured at an Airbnb property. In this article we will provide a brief overview of premises liability law, the reasons why suing a short-term vacation online rental platform is unlikely to be productive, and the options you have for recovering damages.
Premises Liability in Rhode Island: A Primer
Premises liability refers to the responsibility of a property owner for the injuries incurred on a property. In most cases, the property owner is responsible for the condition of the property and any injuries that occur on the property.
The Problem: Airbnb Disclaims Liability
The main problem is that short-term rental services typically include, as part of the terms and conditions for using them, a disclaimer against all liability and a clause that forces disputes into arbitration. Services like Airbnb consider themselves middlemen between renters and property owners, meaning that property owners are solely responsible for the condition of their property. So far, the courts have upheld this self-description by the companies, so suing Airbnb for injuries incurred at a rental property is likely not to result in the recovery of damages.
A Question of Insurance
The best course of action for someone injured at a short-term rental property would be to sue the property owner and try to recover damages. These damages will be paid first through the property owner’s liability insurance.
Platforms such as VRBO and Airbnb advertise their included insurance coverage for short-term rental property owners, with both platforms offering coverage up to one million dollars in liability coverage, including for injuries sustained by guests. However, these policies only come into force after a property owner’s own insurance policy coverage is exceeded.
Skilled Personal Injury Attorneys, Here for You
If you suffered an injury at a short-term rental, you have options to recover the damages you are owed. Years of experience back up our representation of personal injury clients. Contact our office to discuss your case.