How to protect yourself when using Airbnb

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In episode 36 of YourLifeChoices’ Mind Your Own Retirement podcast, hosts John Deeks and Kaye Fallick were joined by leading lawyer Barrie Woollacott from Slater and Gordon to discuss everything you need to know about using Airbnb and how to protect yourself.

Read the transcript below.

Kaye Fallick: People think hotels cost a lot, I’ll Airbnb it around the world, or here. But how do you know that you’ll be covered if something goes wrong?

John Deeks: We see some horror stories on the telly, don’t we?

Kaye: We do. So, Barrie, could you help us by starting, assuming John is the guest and he is at an Airbnb, let’s say in Paris because we can, and he might be injured or disadvantaged. What is the law there?

Barrie Woollacott: The law is a mixture of simple and complicated. And it’s simple in the sense that if John is injured while he is in someone else’s property then, provided that injury is caused because the property owner was negligent, he could bring an action against the owner of the property or the host in that situation. Now that’s the same through most of the civil and common law countries of the world. It’s a little bit more complicated in some of the more exotic places, but generally in places like Europe and America, Australia provided you can establish negligence, then your loss can be covered, but you must prove fault because you don’t get compensated for the simple fact that you’ve been injured.

John: Barrie, you’re saying that every Airbnb property, in the countries of which you speak, does have liability insurance as part of their deal?

BW: Well, Airbnb is the organisation that acts as an introducer between you as the guest and the host or the property owner. They (Airbnb) provide $US1 million cover for the host. In the event that the host is sued or a crime is brought against the host by someone who’s injured in the host’s property. Now, of course, you still have to establish the host did something wrong, or negligence. But Airbnb does stand behind the host to the tune of $US1 million.

So, the problem really is going to arise with the question of whether the host was negligent. Let’s say that the balcony collapsed on the property where you were staying, and you ended up being quadriplegic. Then $US1 million is not going to get you anywhere. So, that’s where $US1 million cuts off and you’re left, hopefully pursuing the host, and hopefully the host has actually brought additional insurance above and beyond Airbnb. Otherwise it’s going to get very messy.

Kaye: There are a lot of hopefullys lining up there. Let’s assume John tripped on a hole in the carpet, broke his leg, needed medical evacuation back to Australia and had an operation. Let’s say a knee replacement. How does he prove negligence, sitting in a hospital in Melbourne, when this occurred in Paris and he was on his own and didn’t take photos because he passed out?

BW: Well, the picture that you paint is a pretty common one – unfortunately. The first thing we want to tell listeners is that it is most important that you take photographic records, even in situations where something has caused you to be injured badly, the hole in the carpet, dodgy staircase, that dodgy balcony or whatever. Make sure that someone, if not you, takes photos of that because once you’re gone, once you’re back in the hospital, back in Australia, your chances of proving that start to dissipate pretty quickly.

Kaye: What if you’re traveling on your own?

BW: The best answer for that, and this is the advice I say to all my clients, and I’m sure you do as well, make sure you take out travel insurance, because one thing about the case or your claim against the Airbnb fund is that you’re going to get nothing immediately. It’s going to be months or years before he ever sees a dollar.

Kaye: On balance, would you be thinking that it’s problematic for people to stay in Airbnb accommodation?

BW: I would take out travel insurance. I would probably want to make sure I also had some protection.

John: Barrie, good advice always, take out travel insurance. Don’t skimp because, my gosh, if you need it you are going to need it. The bottom line is, be careful, take photos if you possibly can, but do take out travel insurance. Take care, Barrie. Thank you.

Have you used Airbnb? Have you ever been injured while staying in a property? Were you compensated?

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Written by Ben



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