Can I Make a Claim If I Have Been Injured At a Short-Term Rental?

A flat wooden house keychain with a silver key attached by a key ring sits on a sandy beach with sparkling blue water in the background. There is a leafy palm in the top right hand corner.

It wasn’t long ago that if you were travelling and needed a place to stay because you could not rely upon friends or family for accommodation, a hotel was the preferred choice.

That changed with the advent of platforms that offer worldwide access to short-term rental units. The concept of renting out one's private residence is not new of course. People have long rented out their cottages on a short-term basis or leased their homes.

We now have platforms such as Airbnb offering almost limitless opportunities for travellers. For those who may not know, Airbnb started off quite humbly in 2007 when two roommates charged three guests $80 apiece to sleep on air mattresses in their San Francisco apartment. A friend joined them and the business that was first known as Air Bed and Breakfast enjoyed unprecedented growth. According to Forbes, Airbnb now has 4.5 million listings in 65,000 cities in 191 countries. At the beginning of June 2023, the company apparently had a net worth of more than US$73 billion.

The vast majority of short-term rental stays are fortunately incident-free, but of course accidents do occur. Do you know what to do if you have been seriously injured as a result of someone else’s possible negligence at a vacation property? The law can be complex and finding the answers that you need is not always easy. For that reason alone, you should seek legal advice before taking steps on your own or agreeing to a settlement following an accident that occurs while on a vacation rental property.

At Gluckstein Lawyers, we have more than 55 years of experience helping personal injury victims and their families. We will work diligently to ensure you are getting everything you need to help in your recovery.

Occupiers Liability Act.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Ontario has legislation called the Occupiers’ Liability Act (OLA). It applies to premises located within Ontario, including short-term rental properties. The Act provides that the owner or occupier of a property has a duty to ensure that persons entering the premises, or property brought onto the premises, are reasonably safe. The Act applies whether the danger is caused by the condition of the property or by an activity carried on there. The occupier does not necessarily have to be the owner. It is the person who is considered to have adequate control over the premises at the time of the injury. The OLA is not an insurance policy. However, it is a statutory basis to impose liability on the owner or occupier of the property if the standard of care is breached.

Is insurance offered?

E-hosting platforms such as Airbnb may have insurance coverage that protects hosts in the event of an accident. Airbnb, in fact, offers what is called AirCover, which offers US$3 million in protection for damage caused by guests to the property. The company also provides US$1 million in liability insurance in the event a guest is injured. It is important to keep in mind, however, that as with most insurance policies, the AirCover policy contains specified limitations and exclusions of coverage. As a host, it is important to understand those limitations and exclusions so as not to fall victim to them.

Moreover, Airbnb warns that their coverage “is not a substitute for personal insurance.” That would include home owner’s coverage.

“Since everyone’s situation is different, you should talk to your insurer to see how, or if, your policy overlaps with AirCover,” the company states.

It is also important to remember that US$1 million may seem like plenty of protection, but if a person is catastrophically injured, one can almost be certain that even this level of coverage will fall woefully short of the damage claim that is going to be asserted and quite possibly proven in a spinal cord or severe brain injury claim. In that case, it will be important to access any available homeowner’s policy or special short-term rental coverage.

Hosts need the right coverage.

From a property host’s perspective, it only makes sense to ensure the existence of adequate coverage. After all, hosts are allowing all types of strangers onto the property and it can be easy to lose control of what is happening while they are on the premises. Even if a host is using a platform such as Airbnb that includes coverage, they should also investigate the possibility of extending their own homeowner’s coverage to include short-term rentals. They may have to pay an additional premium, but the peace of mind it brings is well worth it especially when comparing the small added premium cost to the potentially large exposure in a catastrophic injury case.

When these rentals became more popular, the insurance industry introduced coverage to deal with short-term stays.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada told CBC News that providers developed add-on products for hosts, recognizing that the rentals may not be full-blown commercial enterprises. "The insurance industry has caught up very quickly with the advent of Airbnb and recognizes fully that not everyone who offers their home to visitors through Airbnb is doing so 365 days a year," Amanda Dean, Vice President Atlantic for the Insurance Bureau of Canada told CBC.

"People may opt to do it for a couple of months of the year, so a full commercial policy may not be what is needed."

It is worth noting that just because a host has a homeowner’s policy does not necessarily mean the host is covered for rental guests, so it is prudent to check with the home insurer.

"The vast majority of property insurance policies don't expect homeowners to allow complete strangers to stay in their home without them being present ... but that coverage and those rules can cease to apply the moment that the homeowner vacates the premises and leave it in the hands of others," Dean told CBC.

Take the proper steps when renting your property.

The prevalence of claims seems to be rising and hosts must do their homework. If a friend is visiting your home and injures themselves after falling down a faulty staircase, it can be a much different scenario than a short-term renter having an accident. The short-term rental discussion could raise questions that might not arise in a more typical slip-and-fall case. And the last thing you want to see happen as a homeowner is to have to defend the claim on your own, without an insurance company providing a defence, because you did not secure adequate coverage for the property.

It is not only the insurance issue that hosts must consider. Local authorities are now seeing the impact that these short-term rentals are having on their communities. Rentals are typically situated in residential neighbourhoods where surrounding residents may not be pleased about living next to a home or condominium apartment with a steady stream of transient visitors. Resident safety, the community environment, and property values are the kinds of issues that call for regulatory consideration and policy-making.

If you are the host of a property that is being rented on a short-term basis, you must be mindful of applicable municipal requirements that may impact the use of the property by ‘commercial’ visitors. Otherwise, where an injury or loss occurs on the property, you can assume that a lawyer bringing a claim against the property owner will be looking at whether the local bylaws or regulations were breached.

Call us if you have been injured.

The last thing you are likely to be thinking about when you book that rental unit for your vacation is having an accident. But it does happen. As a renter, due diligence is always recommended when making your vacation plans. Inquiries should be made, and confirmations provided. If you are not renting from a platform with insurance, the host may not be adequately covered for a loss, and it could be more difficult to obtain the settlement you need to move forward with your recovery.

Making a claim can be confusing and frustrating but you don’t have to face it alone. If you have been injured, our personal injury lawyers will work with you to get the right compensation and support for the physical, emotional, and mental trauma caused by an accident, injury or illness. Our lawyers are ready to help you in Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara and Barrie. We offer a free consultation, and we will charge legal fees and expenses only if your claim has merit and successfully results in a resolution of your case.


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