Airbnb Liability and Personal Injury Lawsuits

With summer around the corner and the Ontario’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic “on the right track” – at least according to Toronto Mayor John Tory – experts expect Canadians to get back on the road in the coming months to explore the province, the country, and destinations around the globe. In the old days, that would portend a banner year for hotels and motels; in 2022, many travellers will choose a short-term rental platform like Airbnb or Vrbo to book accommodations.

These platforms come with a variety of advantages over traditional hotels, including pricing flexibility and the option to stay in off-the-beaten-path locations. But there are also drawbacks: Airbnb has been accused of fueling property speculation, which ultimately inflates real estate values and sometimes prices out locals, and accelerating changes to the social fabrics that bind together neighbourhoods.

In recent years, Airbnbs have also been linked to dangerous behaviours and avoidable injuries. In 2020, an 18-year-old Ottawa musician was shot to death in a downtown rental unit, and the same year three people were killed when a shooting erupted at an Airbnb condo in Toronto’s downtown core. A string of violent incidents also occurred over just the last six months in the United States, including shootings in California and Pennsylvania and a mass-overdose event in Florida.

Even in the absence of illicit activities and violence, injuries at Airbnbs are always possible. At times, they can lead to personal injury lawsuits, which is where our expertise comes into play. According to CBC News London, there are already several significant personal injury lawsuits involving Airbnb before the courts in Ontario, including the following:

  • A man from St. Thomas is suing both Airbnb and the owner of a unit in Ottawa for $1.67 million in damages stemming from a traumatic brain injury he incurred by falling down a spiral staircase.
  • A woman from Toronto is seeking $1 million in damages from Airbnb and the owner of a unit in Scarborough where she was attacked and mauled by a loose dog.
  • A Toronto man is seeking upwards of $2 million from Airbnb and the owner of a rental unit in Mulmur, a ski community in central Ontario. The man alleges that he was sleeping in a bed pushed up against a second-floor balcony, and that he fell out of the balcony after turning over in his sleep.

According to the CBC, these types of lawsuits may well become more common in the near future. Municipalities are cracking down on short-term rental operators as they become more aware of the societal impacts of large-scale uptake. That means more regulations, more licensing, and more safeguards in place to protect guests and neighbours. With that in mind, operators must be aware of the significant liability risks they hold when they rent out their property.

“You may expose yourself as an operator or a host to additional liability, for example, if you try to get around municipal licensing and operate on a short-term basis without meeting municipal requirements,” one lawyer told the CBC.

To protect both guests and operators, some municipalities are imposing stringent, even unprecedented requirements. London, Ontario, for example, is proposing to require that all hosts hold $5 million in liability insurance, a figure that has attracted approval from advocates and concern from industry professionals: 

“Seems to be a good step in making sure hosts and guests are protected against any type of liability for claims,” said Thorben Wieditz, director of the advocacy group Fairbnb. “The fact London has the foresight to include this, I think that’s a good sign for guests and host.”

“Personal liability limits of $5 million for a property owner may not be readily available in the market and are typically offered by speciality carriers,” countered Insurance Bureau of Canada spokesperson Mark Cripps in an email to the CBC. “Anyone considering using their property for short-term rental should speak to their insurance representative.”

Contact a Liability Expert to Learn More

If you’re considering renting out your apartment through Airbnb or another short-term rental platform, consider contacting an insurance professional to discuss your potential liability and insurance coverage options.

If you’ve been injured in an accident at an Airbnb, our team of personal injury lawyers may be able to help. Personal injury lawsuits against Airbnb and hosts that use the platform have become increasingly common lately, and an experienced legal team will be able to navigate case law to ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation to which you are reasonably entitled. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Image: Shutterstock

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