Airbnb liability: what happens if someone dies or is injured during their stay?
Occupational Health and Safety are investigating the death of a four-year-old boy who was injured in a swing accident while staying at an Airbnb in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast outback this weekend. end.
A Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman said the child suffered serious head injuries and was rushed to Maleny Hospital after the swing tipped over and landed on him, but he is later died.
A seven-year-old girl also suffered a broken arm.
Occupational Health and Safety said they were investigating the death because it happened at an Airbnb – which is classed as a business.
In a statement, Airbnb told the ABC it was deeply saddened by the incident and had contacted Queensland Police to offer assistance.
But the baby boy’s death has raised questions about who is responsible if something goes wrong at an Airbnb and what consumers can do to protect themselves from legal pitfalls.
Death, injury and damage: does ordinary insurance cover an Airbnb guest?
Short answer – probably not.
Maurice Blackburn’s lead lawyer, Alison Barrett, said Airbnb hosts should tell their insurance company if they intend to rent out their property or if they may not be covered.
“It depends on the specific terms of the policy, but generally it won’t be covered unless they’ve actually provided that notice to their insurer,” Ms Barrett said.
RACQ spokeswoman Kirsty Clinton said the transformation of a home into a business had swung her insurance coverage.
“If there’s a storm, if there’s a cyclone, if there’s a fire, those things are covered if you’re an Airbnb,” she said.
“What is not covered is the liability portion of home and contents insurance if you are running a business from home.
“It’s the bit that offers compensation for death and injury, or loss of damage to someone’s property while staying there.”
What protections does Airbnb offer?
Airbnb offers free Host Insurance, which provides protection for people who rent out their homes.
The program provides coverage of up to $1 million “in the event of a third-party claim for bodily injury or property damage” during an Airbnb stay.
This includes cases like a guest breaking their wrist slipping on a carpet or injuring themselves after falling from a faulty treadmill.
It does not cover property issues, including mold or bed bugs, or damage or injury caused intentionally.
Alison Barrett said there were other limitations and guests should beware of the fine print.
“This insurance would generally only kick in when the host or owner was at fault or negligent in the circumstances of the injury,” she said.
“For this particular [swing set] case, for example, you will need to prove that the owner of the property knew or should have known that the swing posed a risk to children using it – and in light of this knowledge, that he then failed to repair the swing or to maintain it or to remove it.
“If it is a tragic accident that is no one’s fault, no compensation will be paid to the family.”
Airbnb Australia and New Zealand director Sam McDonagh said liability insurance claims were extremely rare.
“In 2017, there were over 49 million trips on Airbnb listings globally,” McDonagh said.
“Liability insurance incidents (claims under our Host Protection Insurance program) were reported to us 0.001% of the time in countries where the program was active.”
What to do before renting an Airbnb?
Brisbane resident and avid traveler Jarrah McLardy said she’s used Airbnb nearly a dozen times without any major issues.
“I used it in Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Budapest… when I was younger I was afraid to stay in hostels so it was a good way to be separated from the people while traveling affordably,” she said.
“I feel like the risk of something bad happening is very low – it’s like staying at a friend’s house.”
But Ms Barrett said platforms like Airbnb were creating new problems for holidaymakers who struggled to understand their rights when renting.
“What we’re seeing is that people are just not aware of their rights and not asking the right questions before using these platforms – and that’s where things can go wrong” , she said.
She said clients should ask owners about their level of insurance and be wary of photos of the home posted online.
“When you arrive at the property, if something is wrong or it doesn’t seem safe, get back in touch with the host and ask questions like ‘how old is he? When did you do this? check for the last time?’,” she said.
Airbnb said all hosts are required to certify compliance with local laws and regulations.