Vacation Rental sites such as Airbnb have exploded in popularity recently, as they provide the experience of a home away from home with prices that often rival hotels. The United States alone has 660,000 listings, making it the Nation with the highest number of Airbnbs. While it may seem like a dream experience, how much do both vacationers, and hosts really know about what they are liable for and what they are protected from? What happens if you are the host, and something happens to the property because of the clients that decided to rent? Conversely, what happens if you are the vacationer, and part of the property becomes damaged based on prior conditions, but you are now being blamed? Airbnb readily makes promises of protection for both parties, but what true, legal armor do you receive when you agree to work with this company?
Who is AirBnb
The vacation rental market has exploded in popularity recently as renters seek unique experiences in worldwide locations, all at the touch of their fingertips. Airbnb prides themselves on providing just that, and their process is streamlined to make it quick and easy to book. Their origins just so happen to be steeped in speedy resolutions. In 2008, Airbnb (Air Bed and Breakfast) was formed when a conference ran out of hotel space and the founders opened their home to renters in need. The company has come a very long way since then. Today, Airbnb boasts 750 Million all time arrivals, 7 Million Airbnb listings, and 220 countries with listings available. However, it is what Airbnb decides not to tell you that can be even more interesting and applicable to their services.
How Frequently Does Litigation Occur?
One might be thinking, “Does Airbnb ever undergo complex litigation?” According to an article published by Bloomberg in February of this year, Airbnb has filed 11 lawsuits against an American city or state government since it was founded. It has appealed an adverse decision at least three times. The article states that half of those legal hurdles have occurred in the past two years. Not only this, but litigation against Airbnb has also risen, with the company being involved in 230 cases through the end of 2019. These ranged from video cameras in bedrooms to severe bedbug infestations and even a situation where a guest tossed a lit cigarette into the trash and burned the property down. As one would expect, Airbnb advertises themselves as being expeditious and user-friendly, but complications beg the question, “What protection does Airbnb truly offer?”
Airbnb readily advertises two different programs to assist Hosts: Host Guarantee and Host Protection Insurance. The Host Guarantee provides protection for property damage to possession, units, or home, against a guest. It is important to note that this does not replace homeowners or renter’s insurance. The Host Protection Insurance program may cover hosts in the event of third-party claims of personal injury or property damage. Airbnb, however, has an extensive list of exclusions to these programs that are important to note.
- anything related to mobile, aircraft, or auto equipment
- assault and battery
- Chinese drywall
- communicable diseases
- contractual liability
- employment related practices
- electronic data
- distribution of material in violation of statutes
- expected or intended injury
- fungi or bacteria; exterior insulation
- liquor liability
- nuclear risks
- product recall
- sexual assault
- war intelligent
That list is not indicative of all the exceptions included and any host should read into what they are not being covered for before hosting guests.
Traveling can be a stressful time for vacationers, so you should always know what will occur if the worst happens. One might assume that traveler’s insurance and Airbnb’s renter protection policies might contain similarities. Ultimately, Airbnb offers no protections that even come close to replicating traveler’s insurance. Airbnb does offer a 24/7 customer support line for reporting instances such as a wrong location listing, an incorrect number of rooms, unknown animals, and more. This comes nowhere close to offering comprehensive protection to a vulnerable individual on vacation.
Should an incident occur where a guest could even begin to think about considering legal action, they may not be able to. In a recent case in Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals, Doe V. Natt, Airbnb argued that “the Does’ claims were subject to arbitration under Airbnb’s Terms of Service, which the Does agreed to be bound to pursuant to a “clickwrap” agreement they had entered when they first created their respective Airbnb accounts online.” The Court ultimately remanded the case for further decision, however, until that decision is made renters should be aware that any case they wish to bring, may be subject to Arbitration.
Go or No Go?
You may be asking yourself if Airbnb is worth the risk from either perspective now. As Airbnb says, the best remedy is always to do your own thorough research first. This is very pertinent advice with any company you decide to work with, large or small. Understanding your legal protections from the beginning will set your mind at ease, and if something does go wrong, you will have a familiarity with where to begin. Check out reviews, photos, and guest experiences before booking. If you have specific questions, do not hesitate to ask them. More knowledge allows you to make the best possible decision for your property as well as your family and friends.
Hosts should make sure to remove objects they are concerned about, as well as vet their homes for potentially dangerous areas. Ultimately, it is important to know that some protections are in place, but the best safeguard for your property and vacation is some good old-fashioned research. Having a law firm on your side, like The Orlando Law Group, for both property projection and personal injury, while also exercising caution as both a renter and host will put you in the best position.