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Insurance Issues With Airbnb

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Insurance Issues With Airbnb


The popular Airbnb service comes with liability insurance coverage provided to Airbnb hosts. But under the law in California, if you host your property on Airbnb, it is typically treated as a ‘business pursuit.’ Let us take a look at the nuances of the insurance coverage from Airbnb and the potential legal risks involved for a host in California.

Airbnb’s HPI Cover for Hosts

In early 2015, Airbnb launched a revamped version of its Host Protection Insurance (HPI) program. HPI provides coverage for Airbnb hosts of up to $1 million in the event of a guest getting injured during their stay in the host’s property. The coverage may also include situations such as damage caused to another’s a property in the vicinity accidentally by a guest.

As this insurance coverage is available to all Airbnb hosts in the US, ideally, there should not be any cause for concern while hosting your home or property. Unfortunately, it is not so simple. The HPI program has serious flaws, even after it was revamped.

Coverage is Restricted to Actual Stay

Early arrivals and overstays are not uncommon in the hospitality business. But if a guest gets injured on your Airbnb property during any of these periods, which are not a part of their actual stay, insurance coverage may not be applicable. Similarly, if the actual guest fails to turn up and someone else substitutes in their place, the host will cease to have the coverage.

Secondary coverage is typically unavailable to most hosts due to the exclusions in their homeowner policy. This implies that the host will have a personal liability if a guest gets injured merely hours after the official check-out time.

Limitations of the Coverage Amount

In each occurrence, Airbnb’s insurance coverage is limited to $1 million. For each location, the limit is $2 million. For all insured locations within the US, the limit of the master policy is $10 million a year. In other words, however early in the year, your master policy limit is reached, you are left without any coverage for the remaining part of the year.

Coverage Will Only Be In Excess To Any Other Coverage

If the host has any other coverage available, Airbnb’s coverage will only apply in excess to that. In simpler words, the host is first required to submit their claim to their homeowner insurance. Airbnb will release a penny only once the claim has been denied by that insurer.

Other Limitations

The HPI program of Airbnb also has the following important exclusions:

  • Acts of intention
  • Loss of income
  • Bacteria or fungi
  • Communicable illnesses
  • Chinese drywall
  • Pollution
  • Terrorism acts
  • Personal and advertising injury
  • Product liability
  • Silica, lead, or asbestos
  • Airbnb suing the host or vice versa
Implications of the host having ‘business pursuits.’

Under California law, a business pursuit is defined as a “regularly engaged activity” performed to earn profit. However, irrespective of the term “regularly engaged activity” used in the legal definition, various cases in California have established that to qualify as a ‘business pursuit,’ it is not necessary that the activity should be primary, full-time, or even a major income source.

Dual Purpose of the Injury Site

In the West American Insurance vs. California Mutual Insurance case (1987), the appellate court said that the insurance policy did not indicate that the business pursuit should be entirely related to business for the exceptions to apply.

The court further said that any application of the doctrine of ‘concurrent causation, in this case, would be incorrect. The doctrine of concurrent causation is applicable only when the injury occurs due to a combination of a covered risk and an excluded risk.

Broad Application of Business Pursuit

Looking at the past cases, it is evident that the exception of business pursuit has a history of being applied in a fairly broad sense. Chances are, if an Airbnb host has a conceivable benefit, it could be interpreted as a business pursuit.

Although it is important to consider the specific wordings used in an insurance policy, more often than not, the exclusion of business pursuit will apply to any injury that was sustained due to something even distantly business-related, except when there are independent causes of that injury.

The risk from Sophisticated Swindlers

An Airbnb host may believe that they are discerning enough to differentiate between a genuine guest and a scammer, but the harsh reality is that scammers can be extremely suave and outwit the host. Most of the Airbnb hosts are unaware that Airbnb holds the potential of providing an unintended opportunity for sophisticated swindlers to enjoy at the host’s expense while not having to bear the trial costs.

Under California law, once a property is rented to an individual for 30 days, the guest will legally be considered a tenant on a lease extendable month to month. There have been cases where scammers have exploited this loophole, and Airbnb adopted a hands-off approach. It is left up to the host in such a situation to get the “tenant” evicted – a process that could take months and cost a significant amount of legal expenses.

Airbnb refuses to extend any support to the hosts to get the squatters out. It counters that it is the host’s responsibility to be aware of the laws in their state. Furthermore, Airbnb’s insurance program does not provide coverage for the rental or legal costs that may be incurred on account of an unwanted squatter.

Buy a Business Insurance Policy

Airbnb hosts, on average, earn a gross annual income of $14,000. In most cases, with this average gross income level, it makes logical sense to spend a part of it in getting the right insurance coverage.

If you are a host renting property on Airbnb, I recommend that you purchase a business insurance policy, which will adequately cover you when you rent your home out on Airbnb.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Personal Injury Lawyer in Sacramento. If you or someone you love been injured in an accident and need the help of a skilled attorney, please contact us right away at 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400 for free and friendly advice with no obligation. You can also reach us online through my website, AutoAccident.com.

We are members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

See our case history of verdicts and settlements and our client reviews on GoogleYelp, and Avvo.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 4.8.21]

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Photo by Andrea Davis from Pexels