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Airbnb’s vicarious liability and failures to vet dangerous hosts and properties

After the horrific murder of Miami-resident, Carla Stefaniak, for which the security guard of the Airbnb where she was staying was arrested, it seems clear that Airbnb continues to fail its self-declared standard: “Your safety is our priority”

Assaults at Airbnb’s are unfortunately not uncommon. So much so, that a website called airbnbhell.com was created in 2013 and guests have been posting horror stories ever since, a lot of them involve violence and sexual assaults.

The fundamental problem with Airbnb’s business model is that Airbnb’s website funnels guests toward properties that were not vetted. And when the unthinkable happens, guests are not covered under Airbnb’s insurance because they fell victim to an intentional act, which is a known insurance coverage exclusion. These compounding failures and acts of negligence make the entire online hospitality services business model inherently flawed and utterly dangerous.

When Airbnb was confronted with guests dying or sustaining catastrophic injuries while staying at an Airbnb property, Airbnb responded with a free “Host Protection Insurance” of $1,000,000. However, guests who become victims of a host’s criminal act, insurance coverage is specifically excluded, and guests are left with no means to recover for / obtain compensation in civil court.

Read our 2017 exposé about negligent security in the era of online hospitality services where we stressed concerns and major failures throughout the industry of making sure guests were safe while using someone else’s property.

Aside from the lack of insurance coverage following criminal acts, the real question is: How can Airbnb fail to vet properties listed on its platform while promoting them on its platform? The blind spot of this business model is glaring and well-known. Yet, horrendous criminal acts, like the one Mrs. Stefaniak fell victim to, persist – Does that translate into “Your safety is our priority”? Why must guests be raped, killed, or subjected to physical assaults before the industry implement changes and adopt the most stringent vetting standards?

With or without insurance, much like other industries like the cruise industry, no change will ever take place until and unless an exemplary verdict forces them to live by their self-declared safety mantra. In the meantime, Airbnb will continue to be sued because it remains vicariously liable to guests who become victims of crimes triggered by a booking on its platform.

You can support the family of Carla Stefaniak here: GoFundMe.com/FindingCarla

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