So it should come as no surprise that accommodations in Florida are a pretty big business. Beyond the standard hotels, there are also entire apartments and homes professionally maintained as rentals or long-term stays. But now added to this mix is “AirBnB,” part of the sharing economy where average, everyday people use their own property, such as a car, or home, to make money on the side as amateur taxi drivers or hoteliers.
With cheaper prices than hotels, it’s no surprise that AirBnB rooms, apartments, and even entire condos or homes are a popular way for people to stay in Florida. It’s even less surprising when you consider just how lucrative certain properties can be if they’re near the water, or other popular attractions, such as downtown condos in Miami or Orlando with easy access to all the downtown cores of these cities offer.
But this is where it’s important to ask one question. If something goes wrong, who’s responsible?
Premises Liability Has No Exceptions
Premises liability is a legal concept that enforces the idea, “If you own a property, you are responsible for the safety of others in that property.” In the context of public spaces, such as shopping malls and businesses like repair garages and restaurants, it means that customers who come in are legally entitled to a certain minimum standard of safety. So, for example, a restaurant that ignores a faulty gas line that results in an explosion, injuring diners, would be legally responsible for ignoring the gas leak threat, and open to lawsuits on the grounds of premises liability. That restaurant knew about the gas problem, failed to do anything about it, and people were injured as a result of an easily preventable problem.
However, this same notion of premises liability extends to homeowners as well. If you have guests in your home, and you have a swimming pool, and a toddler that is visiting goes to the pool, someone needs to watch that toddler. If you see the child near the swimming pool, but decide to ignore it, and come back 30 minutes later to see the child drowned in the pool, you, as the homeowner are responsible for that drowning, because you saw the child lingering by the pool and ignored the risk of leaving a child unattended by that swimming pool.
Air BnB Is Safe
Where this gets more complicated is with the notion of AirBnb and a homeowner deciding to make money from the service. AirBnb itself has conditions in their terms of service that specifically remove them from any liability in an accident. People who use the site to find accommodations waive their rights to sue AirBnb if anything goes wrong. And people who use the site to list their homes take on full legal responsibility if any injury should happen on their property.
And one thing that homeowners should be aware of is that in many cases, home insurance does not cover any damage or injuries that arise as a result of using the home in a business manner. Unless business insurance is specifically taken, if a guest staying at an AirBnb apartment or home should get injured the homeowner is 100% liable for this. If it is something that is related to premises liability, such as guests fall down uneven stairs, or having a loose wall shelf fall unit off the wall and hit that guest on the head, that guest has every right to go to a lawyer and pursue a case of premises liability, under negligence and/or slip and fall injuries.
There Is Insurance
Homeowners need to be aware that AirBnb does offer its own insurance protection for hosts that are sued by guests, but the insurance coverage is very narrow. Guests that are injured due to structural problems with a home will mean the host is protected by AirBnb insurance. However, guests that are injured by furniture or other property in the home will not.
So if a guest trips/slips and falls on uneven steps and sues the host, AirBnb will step in with the insurance policy should a lawsuit occur. However, if a guest is injured by a falling shelf, or a short circuit in a toaster or lamp, AirBnb will not protect that host if the guest talks to a slip and fall lawyer.