Injury Liability at House-Sharing Services
10/6/2016

Vacationers want to enjoy their time away; some even want to save money and still have the comforts of home in a tourist town. This is where house-sharing services can provide a great getaway while helping homeowners earn some extra cash.

Hotel guests have a general acceptance that the hotel management has a legal obligation to provide a safe space. The aftermath of falling because of a loose railing or slipping on stairs that are poorly maintained typically leads to a suit against the hotel.

What happens, however, if one of these scenarios happened while someone stays at a house that is part of the house-sharing service? It is assumed that the hotel can afford to compensate a guest for their injuries. But, is it just as clear who may be legally responsible for a guest’s safety in the new “sharing economy?”

What Happens if Someone Gets Hurt During Their Stay?

An initial assumption is that the person could sue the house-sharing service. However, practically all businesses that use this model requires guests to sign a Terms of Service agreement that states the business cannot be sued for an injury.

In some situations, the guest could possibly get around the provision. Still, this could be very difficult to win. Most likely, the alternative is to sue the host for compensation. Some states consider the guest as a “business invitee” of the host.

This means the host is responsible for exercising a degree of care to keep guests safe during their stay. Therefore, the same legal standard of care for the hotel would apply to the host.

Are Insurance Policies Enough to Cover an Injury?

Most hosts incorrectly assume that the homeowner’s insurance policy covers any type of injury. In fact, most insurance policies exclude business activities from coverage plans when that business operates inside the home. Renting a house for profit is considered a business activity.

Even policies that permit allow homeowners to rent their home once a year may require a separate endorsement. Some policies also allow a limited number of days each year where the homeowner must give the insurance company advanced notice of the rental dates.

What if the Host is a Tenant?

The situation becomes more complicated if the host is not the homeowner, but lives in the house as a tenant. Some tenants have renter’s insurance, but those policies usually do not include coverage for business activities.

Suing the landlord might be an option, unless the landlord did not know the tenant was renting the property through a house-sharing service. The landlord might not be held liable if this type of renting is prohibited in the lease.

Because of all the legal “what-if,” a person injured during a stay at a house-sharing location should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss options that might be available for compensation.