Airbnb, the popular space-sharing site, is a fantastic way to visit far away places and host others in your community and home. 

But bad things can happen too.  What if something unseemly, violent, or harmful happens in your airbnb space when you’re not even there — can you be held legally responsible? 

The short answer is maybe.

If you list your space on Airbnb or other site and make it available to guests for a charge, you have a duty to protect them from certain dangers — in particular, dangers that they might not perceive for themselves.

In other words, you are not responsible for ensuring the absolute safety of the people you host (by providing a bodyguard, fitting them for protective armor, or enrolling them in self-defense courses).  The law does not expect you to be an insurer of their safety.

So, if, unbeknownst to you, your guests decide to host a frat party on your space, and someone is sexually assaulted, raped, or some other crime is committed, then no, it is not likely you could be held legally responsible (unless, of course, you had reason to believe or suspect it was going to happen and did nothing to prevent it).

However, under the law you are responsible for taking reasonable precautions and warning your guests of dangers of which they might not be aware.

For instance, if you know that there is an escaped convict on the loose and that there has been a string of violent break-ins and instances of rape in the neighborhood, then you must, at minimum, warn your guests so they know to be extra careful.  If you say nothing, and your guest falls victim, then you may be held legally responsible.

The responsibility to protect your guests comes from knowing about a risk of danger that goes above and beyond the general risk of living in this world.

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So, you don’t need to warn of general dangers like watching for cars when crossing the street, or being careful with knives when slicing tomatoes.  But you do need to warn of risks that would not be as apparent to them — and of which you know about because you live there.

It’s all about the dangers that you know about — and that your guests don’t.

The basis for legal liability in these types of situations is the host’s ‘superior knowledge’ of a dangerous condition; whether violent criminals on the loose, vicious animals, a higher incidence of crime in the neighborhood, a rash of car break-ins, or a series of armed home break-ins.
If you know of a danger in your space or neighborhood that should warrant your guests taking extra safety precautions, then under the law you have a duty to warn them.
And if you don’t, and something bad happens, it could lead to a lawsuit.