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When An Injury Occurs At A Short-term Rental Property

When an injury occurs at a short-term rental property (e.g. Airbnb), can the injured party recover damages from the property owner, the rental app/service, or both?

Who’s to Blame When an Airbnb Goes Awry? Premises Liability and Short-Term Rentals

While you may be able to take a vacation, gravity never does. If you slip and fall on the freshly mopped floor of a hotel lobby, it is pretty clear that the hotel proprietor is responsible for the condition of the floor. But what if you fall down the narrow, railing-less stairs of a short-term rental you found on a platform like VRBO or Airbnb? Can you sue the platform that helped you rent the property?

The short answer is: No, you cannot sue Airbnb for your injury. But, you still have options to recover damages when you are injured at an Airbnb property. In this article we will provide a brief overview of Massachusetts premises liability law, the reasons why suing a short-term vacation rental platform is unlikely to be productive, and the options you have for recovering damages.

Premises Liability in Massachusetts: A Primer

Premises liability refers to the responsibility of a property owner for the injuries incurred on a property. In most cases, the property owner is responsible for the condition of the property and any injuries that occur on the property.

Massachusetts operates under a mixed comparative negligence standard, assigning percentages to the plaintiff’s responsibility and the defendant’s responsibility for the injury. So long as the injured party is less than 50% responsible for the injury, damages are recoverable, though the degree to which the injured party was responsible will reduce the awarded amount proportionally.

The Problem: Airbnb Disclaims Liability

The main problem is that short-term rental services typically include, as part of the terms and conditions for using them, a disclaimer against all liability and a clause that forces disputes into arbitration. Services like Airbnb consider themselves middlemen between renters and property owners, meaning that property owners are solely responsible for the condition of their property. So far the courts have upheld this self-description by the companies, so suing Airbnb for injuries incurred at a rental property is likely not to result in the recovery of damages.

A Question of Insurance

The best course of action for someone injured at a short-term rental property would be to sue the property owner and try to recover damages. These damages will be paid first through the property owner’s liability insurance.

Platforms such as VRBO and Airbnb advertise their included insurance coverage for short-term rental property owners, with both platforms offering coverage up to one million dollars in liability coverage, including for injuries sustained by guests. However, these policies only come into force after a property owner’s own insurance policy coverage is exceeded. Massachusetts requires short-term rental property owners to maintain one million dollars’ worth of liability insurance but allows property owners to substitute a platform’s million-dollar policy for one of their own.

Skilled Personal Injury Attorneys, Here for You

If you suffered an injury at a short-term rental, you have options to recover the damages you are owed. Years of experience back up our representation of personal injury clients. Contact our office to discuss your case.

Steven M. Houde

Steven M. Houde

Attorney Houde is a top rated personal injury lawyer serving the Greater Boston region. With law offices in Medway, Attelboro, Needham, and Wellesley, Massachusetts, he will travel to meet clients at their home, hospital, or work. He is skilled at handling all facets of a successful injury claim, from proving liability to looking into all possible sources of insurance coverage to dealing with insurers and defense counsel.

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