Sudden death of a guest in Alta. Airbnb lets host fight for damage compensation

Please note: this story contains images that some may find disturbing.

April 26 is a day Tracey Tell will never forget.

The Okotoks, Alberta. A woman was returning from her lunch break when she found out that a man who was renting her basement apartment had died.

“I was mortified, I was horrified and I was so sad,” Tell said, holding back tears. “This man was a few feet away from us and he didn’t ask for any help.”

Tell says her husband Robert first heard the shower in the basement around 10 a.m. that morning, but the water was still running two hours later.

“My husband rushed downstairs to see what had happened and found him collapsed in the shower, so we called 911,” she said. “My husband gave him CPR until the paramedics arrived, but unfortunately he was pronounced dead.”

Emergency officials confirmed to CTV News that the man had died inside the house and the scene was in RCMP care. The exact cause of death is not known, but no criminal charges have been laid, no foul play has been suspected and the investigation is now closed.

However, due to the collapse of the man in the shower and the drain cover, water and blood started to spill out and the whole basement started to flood causing extensive damage. . Tell said all the drywall two feet above the ground was covered with water.

The presence of blood also meant that the whole area was considered a biohazard.

The Tell family said they immediately contacted Airbnb, which they said was supposed to contact them to have the basement cleaned, but said they had not received a response for several days.

Instead, the family said they contacted a professional catering company and paid out of pocket to have their home sanitized in a timely manner.

“A team came the next day and they were wearing hazmat suits,” Tell said. “They set up a tunnel from my basement through my garage, took everything out in sealed bags in a dumpster that was in my driveway and it took three days to get everything out of the basement.”

Damage to the basement was estimated at $ 54,778, according to quotes the family received from builders and restoration companies.

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The family said they then contacted their home insurer, who already knew they were renting out their basement. They said the insurance company told them, since they were renting the house at the time, that everything was fully covered by Airbnb’s host warranty program.

In an email, Airbnb gave the Tell family 14 days to submit all photos, cost of repairs, and each damaged item. The family said the offers they received from the company did not cover everything.


According to the exchange, Airbnb gave the Tells a first offer on June 10 of $ 49,320 and a second offer on June 18 of $ 52,471. The family declined both offers because not all damage was covered.

The Tell family was given the ultimatum to accept either offer within 48 hours.

A follow-up email was sent to the family on June 22 from Airbnb.

The Tell family has again requested the restoration quote amount of $ 54,778.

Three weeks later, on July 14, they received an email from Airbnb offering them a new settlement worth $ 17,840, or about a quarter of the June 18 offer.

“We were absolutely shocked,” Tell said. “The Airbnb claims adjuster decided that because they couldn’t see the water damage in the basement in some areas, two-thirds of too much work had been done, so he was going to remove the two-thirds of what he considered to be the amount he should have paid us.


The Airbnb Host Guarantee in itself is not an insurance policy, but rather an internal program applied automatically to properties rented through the site.

According to the company’s website, it covers hosts up to US $ 1 million for:

  • Damage to your property caused by guests;

  • Damage to your property caused by guests and;

  • Damage caused by a customer’s service animal.

The program does not protect against theft of money and securities, damage due to normal wear and tear or bodily injury to guests or others.

An Airbnb statement to CTV News said:

“We strive to provide exceptional support to our host community, and in particular, we take host warranty claims very seriously. Our dedicated team is working diligently with the host to continue to provide support through our Host Guarantee program.

In an email obtained by CTV News, Airbnb’s adjuster from Crawford & Co. said a flat-rate depreciation charge of five percent was applied to repairs and damaged content in Airbnb claims.

With depreciation, claims are settled at actual cash value, not replacement costs, which led to the June 18 offer of $ 52,471.

However, Airbnb was unable to confirm with CTV News why the third and final offer of $ 17,840 was made on July 14.


In the months following the incident, Tell said her life had been turned upside down and even the sight of her basement brought her to tears.

Okotoks’ mother added that she felt traumatized and took several days off to seek counseling on how to cope.

“I don’t sleep, I have a lot of pain in my body, and stress and pain don’t go well together, so I’m not doing very well to be honest,” Tell said.

“I have had people contact me to stay in my Airbnb, who have stayed with me before, and I had to turn them down.”

Tell added that her family and friends have been extremely supportive over the past few months.

Sandi Scott, who has been Tell’s close friend for several years, has seen firsthand the impact of the situation.

“Tracey even had no compassion from Airbnb,” Scott said.

“You’d expect some kind of customer service, you’d expect someone to say, ‘Let’s make this a priority because this is an extreme situation.’ “


Experts who frequently deal with insurance claims note that renters should always be aware of the policy they have with their provider and be aware of third party coverage programs.

“I think the key is to be transparent with your insurer,” said Alport Insurance office manager Meaghan Dolan.

Dolan added that insurers are receptive to Airbnb because they offer home warranty protection if something goes wrong, but some things may not be covered.

“Tell your insurance company and they might say okay that’s fine, but there will be an exclusion on your policy for tenant vandalism for example, so any kind of damage or theft caused by a renter will not be covered by your policy, ”she said.

“So again, depending on which insurance company you are with, they may not offer you an all perils policy if you rent your house.”

So far, Airbnb has not paid the Tell family anything in terms of compensation for the damages. At this point, they say they have to shoulder the full cost of the renovation business.

Tell said she contacted the company again and was waiting for a response.

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