Airbnb vs. traditional hotels: How much protection do I have?

If you slip and fall on another person’s property, who is responsible? The answer often depends on the type of property you are visiting. The highest level of protection is afforded to people who slip and fall while the guest of an innkeeper or the invitee of a business. Essentially, most business owners, including hotel owners, have a duty to keep their premises safe for customers.

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However, with the advent of Airbnb, VRBO, and other similar entities, private short-term rentals are becoming more popular. Unfortunately, the law does not always reflect these new business relationships appropriately, particularly when it comes to personal injury.

The Supreme Court of Virginia recently decided in Haynes-Garret v. Dunn that short-term renters are afforded a lower protection than traditional hotel guests.  The Court found that short-term renters should be treated like traditional long-term tenants, even though traditional tenants may have repair and maintenance responsibilities under their lease agreements and other tenant laws.

In short, unlike hotel owners, short-term rental owners have no duty to maintain or repair the premises unless they know of a dangerous condition that was not open and obvious to the renter. The Supreme Court chose to treat regular short-term renters like landlords, rather than hotel or motel operators. This rule applies to any rental property where the owner surrenders full possession of the premises, even if it is consistently rented for only a few days at a time.

If you are planning on staying in a short-term rental, note any unsafe conditions you might encounter and contact the owner and/or the rental company immediately.

It’s important to realize if you are injured in a short-term rental, you still have legal rights.  These issues will continue to be litigated as the courts catch up to new business schemes.

An Allen and Allen attorney can help you navigate your rights.  Call us for a free consultation.