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Who Pays if You’re Hurt at an Airbnb Rental?

The Internet company Airbnb is changing how Americans travel and how we earn extra income. Airbnb is an online service that matches travelers with homeowners and renters who have spare rooms to offer for a brief stay. These rooms are generally available at a much lower price than hotels, but are they worth the savings?

One thing a traveler must consider is the possibility of being injured during your stay. Licensed hotels, motels and resorts carry ample insurance from premises liability injuries. However, Airbnb hosts are not “innkeepers” for the purposes of New York law, so there may be serious questions about who is legally responsible for an injury and whether the responsible party will have the means to pay compensation.

Generally, an “innkeeper” is not responsible for an injury that occurs on their property unless the injured party can establish fault. This fault is usually tied to a hazardous condition that is not obvious to a guest, but which a reasonable proprietor would have discovered and fixed. But an Airbnb rental is not an “inn” — it is usually a room within a private residence, either a home or an apartment. Let’s consider a couple of scenarios:

  • Defect in a private home — Where the Airbnb host is the homeowner, the case for liability is clear cut. If you can establish fault, the homeowner is responsible, and the homeowner’s insurance policy should offer some protection.
  • Defect in an apartment — In this case, the Airbnb host rents an apartment in a building. The apartment has a defect that injures you, the Airbnb guest. The question that naturally follows is, “Who is responsible for the defect?” Is this a deferred maintenance issue, where the tenant has complained about a problem that the landlord hasn’t fixed? Has the landlord tried to get in to fix the problem, but the tenant did not grant access? Is the landlord unaware of the problem because the tenant hasn’t mentioned it? Did the tenant create the hazard and fail to report it to the landlord for fear of having to pay for it? Finally, was the hazard obvious, or did the tenant host warn the guest about the defect?
  • Defect in the common area of an apartment building — The common area is the sole responsibility of the landlord, who has a duty to make it reasonably safe for tenants and their guests. However, if the tenant is violating a lease agreement by renting to an Airbnb guest, the landlord may not have to pay damages.
  • When is Airbnb responsible? An argument can be made that Airbnb is similar to the home office of a hotel chain. However, the company would contend that all hosts are independent contractors and all the company does is facilitate contact between hosts and guests. Nevertheless, Airbnb has instituted a program of host protection, providing up to $1 million in liability coverage. But there’s a catch: the Airbnb host protection does not cover injuries caused by defects.

If you are planning a vacation, do your research carefully and way the costs and benefits. If you’ve been injured in a premises liability accident in the greater New York area, call Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson. P.C. at 888.746.8212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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