Services like Airbnb, Home Away and VRBO are soaring in popularity and reinventing the way we travel. Instead of staying at a traditional hotel, travelers are opting for the comforts of home in short term rentals – offered through home sharing sites like Airbnb.com – which are often much less pricey than hotels. While these services offer a great alternative to traditional hotels, there are some legal challenges – especially since options may be limited if something goes wrong.

Take for example, a recent death at an AIrbnb rental. A man was trying out a tree swing outside of his rental and the trunk it was tied to broke and fell on his head, ultimately killing him.

This devastating incident underscores important issues related to safety and insurance for anyone involved with the house-sharing model. What exactly are the ramifications if you are injured at an Airbnb or other rental? Many Arbnb operators believe that their homeowner’s insurance provides coverage in the event of injury or death – yet most homeowner’s insurance policies have exclusion for commercial activity. Airbnb Liability Questions

It is important to know that rentals acquired via home sharing sites are unregulated, with evolving safety standards. If you are staying in a hotel, liability in the event of an injury is clearer. When the hotel owner/operator does not maintain a safe environment resulting in a guest injury, the hotel is liable. Yet if you’re injured in a rental, there are multiple parties to contend with: the homeowner, landlord and the home sharing site.

The good news: companies such as Airbnb are changing their policies. Effective last month, Airbnb’s Host Protection Insurance Program provides coverage to host and where applicable their landlords. It’s free and offers up to $1 million an incident. Homeowner Insurance and Airbnb  While this new program provides some peace of mind, it is critical to read the fine print to fully understand what’s covered and what’s not. VRBO, Airbnb, and You

Prior to  renting out your home, call your insurance agent to see what is covered and if you  need to take out a business policy. In any event, home-sharing hosts should clearly review and understand their homeowner’s, renter’s, and/or umbrella insurance policies prior to renting out their home.

Before participating in a home sharing site, protect yourself by staying informed. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers some great advice – for both hosts and guests: Home-sharing Rentals

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