The Potential Property Liability Issues When One Hosts or is a Guest on Airbnb: Premises Liability

Airbnb and other online market place hospitality services have become more and more popular for both guests and property owners seeking temporary housing or additionally income. The manner in which an Airbnb host operates their property can affect both the host’s and guest’s legal rights.

Premises Liability
As part of the negligence doctrine, premises liability sets forth the fundamental duties owed by an owner or occupier of land to protect those entering the land from any injury due to a dangerous condition or defect [1].  Mere ownership of a parcel of land will not support liability for injuries that occurred on the property, unless the owner was negligent [2].  The owner must have a duty to the occupier, breach such duty, and such breach proximately causes the injuries[3].  

In premise liability actions, Courts will first determine the status of the person entering the land. An owner or occupier of land or building maintains a duty to warn or make safe any known conditions that are non-obvious and dangerous to any licensee, which includes a social guest[4].  

Based on the approach of a majority of jurisdictions, a guest under the Airbnb model holds most likely holds the status of an invitee because the guest came to the host’s property at the invitation of the host/owner/occupant. Therefore, an Airbnb host owes the highest legal duty towards guests – the duty to keep the guest safe from unreasonable risks and dangers that the host knows about or “should have known about.”  

Additionally, an Airbnb host may face liability if the host failed to exercise reasonable care to discover dangerous risks in a situation where guests would not be expected to identify or protect themselves from.  Therefore, it is encouraged to conduct a thorough inspection periodically and before listing on any online hospitality service.

[1] LOUIS A. LEHR, JR., 2 PREMISES LIABILITY 3D Generally § 36:1, Westlaw (database
updated August 2016). Generally, the discussion of premises liability solely pertains to real
property; but the courts in Indiana decided to extend it to a large houseboat used by its owners as a weekend getaway and equipped with a kitchen and bathroom. (See Harris v. Traini, 759 N.E.2d 215 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001).) Given the diversity of listings on Airbnb, it is possible that this type of precedent may become applicable.
[2]  Id.
[3]  Id.
[4]  Restatement (Second) of Torts § 330 cmt. 3 (Am. Law Inst. 1975).

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The information above is intended to provide limited information only and is not legal advice. The laws relating to apartment sharing, sublets, and/or the use of Airbnb in New York are complex. If you are a party to a matter concerning the use of Airbnb or short-term rentals, or otherwise need further guidance in this or a related area of law, Singh & Rani, LLP can assist you.