Airbnb is a platform that connects travelers and hosts. It lists properties that can be booked for a short period, transforming the average home into a makeshift bed and breakfast. Hosts also list their properties to be used for events.
Airbnb provides all the necessary contracts between host and guest. It also has standard policies for cancellation and guidelines as to how the parties communicate with one another. While Airbnb covers the legal framework, hosts are still vulnerable to legal liability in the event of a guest suffering an injury. Part of the appeal of Airbnb is that they provide the contracts, yet these contracts typically protect Airbnb more than the renters.
Airbnb has thrived in Ontario since short-term rentals are legal here. One of the issues that the province is still debating is what happens when the host is a tenant and the owner is unaware of unapproved guests paying to stay on their property. Airbnb could violate the Residential Tenancies Act, which stipulates that a tenant cannot rent the property for more than they pay in rent. How this is regulated, investigated and legislated is still being worked out by lawmakers and homeowners.
House rules are outlined by the owner in the listing, in addition to the general rules provided by Airbnb. This means that guests can make an informed choice before booking. Ideally, both sets of rules are drafted to keep guests safe and protect the property from damage.
Guests can book entire homes or a shared space where the owners or other guests will be present. Once the booking is processed, the rules are legally binding. Rules vary but typically govern the following:
- Respecting the home
- Picking up after yourself
- Not eating in certain rooms
- How and when to do laundry
- How to report any broken property
- How to return keys and replacement fees if keys are lost
- How significant damage can result in loss of security deposits
More obscure rules can regulate the following:
- No entertaining
- All overnight guests need to be approved by the host
- Kitchen utilization
- Temperature Adjustments
Hosts need to understand that the rules they set could turn off potential guests. The more rules, the less likely you are to get a booking, even if the rules are logical and fair. Hosts reserve the right to cancel the booking immediately if any rule is violated.
While house rules are important to protect the property, they do not concretely address guest safety.
Hurt as a Guest?
This is where things can get sticky. If you slip, trip or fall while staying in an Airbnb listing, the process offered by the company is scant and generic. Airbnb advises to:
- Head to a safe place
- Contact emergency services if needed
- Receive medical attention
- Report the incident to Airbnb via the Help & Support function under the “profile tab” on the app
Those hurt as an Airbnb guest can seek damages the same way they can in any personal injury case. If the host’s intentional actions or negligence result in an injury then the guest should be entitled to damages through tort law.
Airbnb’s unique offering in the hospitality space complicates matters, so it’s best to work with a personal injury lawyer. They can help determine liability and whether you were a guest or a sublet at the time. Unfortunately, since Airbnb is less than a decade old, Ontario does not have a legal precedent yet.
Hosts can require that their guests sign an additional contract. This can further release the host of any legal liability in the event of an injury or death. It would be similar to a waiver that participants of certain activities must sign before taking part in said activity. If you go this route, make it clear on your profile that a booking will not be complete unless the additional waiver or contract is signed, and that failure to do so will prevent the booking from being processed.
Condo owners who are Airbnb hosts need to exercise further caution. Condo boards provide security and regulate access inside the building to non-guests. By subletting via Airbnb, a host could be circumventing condo rules. Depending on the rules, this could result in the host being fined or even evicted.
Personal Injury Lawyer
While not practical in many cases, what should really occur is that you should have a lawyer review the Airbnb terms and clauses before agreeing to rent the property. A lawyer will be able to interpret the contract, and ensure you are completely protected. By putting yourself in the hands of Airbnb, you could be susceptible to a myriad of legal problems down the road.
If you have suffered an injury as an Airbnb guest, or in any other rental scenario, be sure to contact us for your no-obligation legal consultation to determine if you have a personal injury case worth pursuing.