No one wants to imagine that the short-term rental (such as Airbnb or VRBO) they booked for a vacation would provide anything but a safe haven while taking a break from regular daily life. But there are times when someone is injured on the short-term rental premises. In those cases, who is liable, the host or the guest? Read on for what you need to know.

Is the Property Owner Liable if I’m Injured in Their Short-Term Rental?

It’s possible that the property owner may be liable if you’re injured while staying in their unit. The owner has a legal obligation to make the place reasonably safe. However, the grounds for suing the owner must be that they knowingly did or did not do something that caused the property to be unsafe. Legally, that’s known as negligence. For example, if there were icy sidewalks leading up to the entrance of the property and the owner did nothing to try and mitigate the ice, they might be considered negligent.

However, it’s critical to know that many homeowner’s insurance policies have exemptions for commercial uses of the property. So the homeowner may not be able to make a claim on their insurance for an injury sustained when they rented the home out. There’s the possibility of suing the homeowner, but depending on their financial situation, it may not cover the injuries.

Are Rental Companies Like Airbnb or VRBO Ever Liable for Injuries Sustained at One of Their Properties?

If the property owner is negligent, as described above, you could make a claim directly to Airbnb’s Host Liability Insurance. Airbnb insures its hosts for up to $1 million in bodily injury or property damages (this may not apply in all countries outside the U.S.). In some cases, if you make a claim to the host’s personal property insurance, they may, in turn, take the claim directly to Airbnb rather than filing a claim with the personal insurance. VRBO has a similar policy that provides insurance as long as the reservation was completed through VRBO’s website.

These types of policies are carefully designed for injuries directly related to the homeowner’s maintenance of the property. There are exemptions for things such as someone being assaulted or a car crash unrelated to the property. 

Are Airbnb’s Host Liability Insurance and Host Guarantee Programs the Same Thing?

No. The Host Liability Insurance covers injuries and damages that happen to the guest of the property. The Host Guarantee program covers property damages that the host suffers when a guest damages their property.

Do I Need the Services of an Attorney if I’ve Been Injured in a Short-Term Rental?

While not required, it’s highly recommended that you bring in an experienced personal injury attorney to handle claims for injuries sustained at a short-term rental. There are many reasons for this.

  • Laws and insurance coverage vary by location. Property owners and short-term rental companies may have varying requirements and regulations by location, whether by country, state, or even city or municipality. In some places, the property owner’s insurance may require them to file a claim either directly with the company (Airbnb or VRBO) before filing a claim with the personal insurer. In other places, especially outside the U.S., the rental companies’ liability insurance may not apply or have varying requirements. An experienced attorney will know how to find the requirements for the specific location where someone was injured. 
  • Proving negligence can be difficult. Obviously, neither Airbnb nor VRBO is going to immediately pay out thousands, or potentially $1 million, in claims without proof. Negligence can be complicated to prove, especially when there are experienced attorneys and insurance representatives on the other side looking for ways to discount the claims. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will know the tactics the other lawyers and insurance representatives will use and how to counter them.
  • They may claim your injury is an exception to their policy. As noted above, Airbnb and VRBO have exclusions in their policies and may try to use those as loopholes to avoid paying your claim. An attorney can evaluate your case for strategies to overcome that.  

What Should I Do if I Was Injured in a Short-Term Rental?

It’s essential to have yourself thoroughly examined by a medical professional as soon as possible. Even if you don’t think the injury is that bad, it’s crucial because many serious conditions don’t show symptoms right away. Leaving them untreated can cause worse complications later.

If possible, do everything you can to document the scene of the injury. That includes cell phone photos and videos showing the injury itself (if applicable) and the conditions that led to it (icy sidewalks, burned-out stairwell lights, etc.).

Then call us at 509-638-1414 to request a free consultation. Determining liability can be a complicated process, one you shouldn’t try to do on your own. Every case is unique, and we can help you determine the best approach for yours.

If you receive calls, emails, or letters from the rental’s host or the company behind the rental (Airbnb, VRBO), refer them to your attorney. Don’t enter into any discussion or answer questions, and be sure not to sign anything. The rental company’s lawyers or insurance representatives may try to assign you the blame or get you to accept a settlement far lower than what you may be entitled to.