Party animals: Airbnb and your rights

Airbnb is a great solution for people hoping to get cheap accommodation outside of a traditional hotel. But there are plenty of those who hire a property just so they have somewhere to throw a party. Often, unfortunately, without the knowledge of the host. 

So what happens when the quiet traveller you've rented your home to suddenly throws an all-night bender that causes neighbours to call the cops? And what if there are damages? Do tenants even have the ability to invite others to your home when they aren't the ones named in the rental agreement? 

And if you're a tenant, do you have to let your host know if you want people to come over - even if nothing is damaged?

Do you have a right...to party?

Most Airbnb rentals go off without a hitch, but there are definitely horror stories. In Canada, a couple who rented their home through Airbnb thought their four guests were in town for a wedding. As it turns out, according to Mashable, neighbours claimed a party bus parked at the house with around 100 guests.

When the hosts arrived home, police were still removing people from the home - and the subsequent pictures revealed the home had been ransacked. 

It’s crucial to know that Airbnb doesn’t impose generic rules when it comes to things like parties. This is instead left up to the host (property owner/tenant) and the Airbnb guest. It’s essentially a contractual relationship – and as a result, any rules regarding gatherings need to be worked out with the host. These rules should be clearly written in Airbnb listings.

However, if you’re staying in someone’s place via Airbnb, you need to be upfront about whether you have intentions of bringing anyone other than the guests listed on the Airbnb application into the premises, especially if they’re staying the night. Not only will this help you avoid a conflict later on, but it’ll make any conflict resolution easier if something does happen to break.

Is this a strict legal requirement? That’s less clear and will be state-dependent. A Victorian Supreme Court case found that the arrangement between host and guest is a lease, rather than a licence – and that means the Airbnb guest may be afforded all the rights a leaseholder receives under Victorian law. Of course, this depends on which state you're in. 

This is important because if you’re a regular tenant, your lease can’t stop you from having visitors at your house. Therefore, if Airbnb guests have the same rights as tenants, they would also be allowed to have visitors – even if they’re not listed guests on the Airbnb application. Again, this will differ from state to state.

However, it's always best to just be clear and upfront about whatever is being planned. In one event, a British Airbnb host rushed home to discover her house was being used for a New Year's Eve party. According to The Guardian, the guest even declined to shut down the party when asked. 

This is why it's important to be thorough. Guests may be allowed to have parties at an event, but both parties will avoid trouble if all the details are provided upfront.

Who is liable for any damages?

If someone gets hurt, who is liable, and what are the implications?

Airbnb does provide some insurance cover for personal injury sustained during a stay under its Host Protection Insurance plan, and in some cases protects the hosts against claims. It also states that in certain circumstances, and provided with sufficient evidence, the company can charge a guest’s credit card and will assist certain parties in negotiating the costs of damage.

In one case, someone living in New York rented out her apartment to a guest, who then threw a wild party and trashed the apartment. Not only that, but the owner had to replace several sets of expensive keys for operating elevators. The damages came to approximately $2,000. Airbnb initially informed the host she would only receive $100 because she had failed to fill out a claim form within 72 hours of the incident. The company eventually reversed its decision after she followed up again but it cost her a lot of pain and hassle.  

Sometimes a host may get frustrated and ask a guest to leave. It’s likely that this is only allowable if a guest has seriously breached the contract, and that can be hard to judge. That’s why it’s so important a host puts into an agreement the terms they consider to be most serious.

When should you recover additional costs?

It’s common for Airbnb agreements to include a clause for an extra cleaning fee, and that will be determined by the agreement itself. But the general agreement is that the guest leaves the premises clean and tidy.

Additional costs shouldn’t be requested because a host miscalculated the cost of cleaning. Any further costs need to be determined based on whether the house or apartment is in the same state as it was when the guest arrived. Say, for instance, during a party a group of guests damage an aquarium, which causes water damage. Further costs could be pursued then.

So while it’s clear that Airbnb has given hosts – and guests – plenty to be happy about, it’s still worth knowing your rights. It could save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

TOPIC: Consumer protection
RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Consumer protection

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Dimi Ioannou

Maurice Blackburn Melbourne
Dimi Ioannou is a principal and Practice Group Leader at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in charge of the firm’s Public and Product Liability team in Melbourne. Dimi is an accredited specialist in personal injury law. Dimi works in the area of public liability and represents clients in a wide range of consumer law litigation involving different product liability claims. Dimi also represents families at coronial inquests, acting on behalf of the families of those who have died as a result of negligence, as well as many victims of institutional abuse. She is specially trained in trauma informed practice which ensures she works with clients to access justice in a way that recognises the complex trauma they have suffered. Dimi has also represented hundreds of road accident clients who have lodged compensation claims with the Transport Accident Commission. Dimi is passionate and committed about defending the rights of her clients’ entitlements. She knows that the legal world can be daunting, therefore, makes the process as easy as possible for those she is advocating on behalf of. She has provided legal advice to many Maurice Blackburn clients and has been active in litigation in both the County and Supreme courts. She also advocates in many forums for the rights of those who have sustained serious injuries. “We’ve been helping clients for almost 100 years at Maurice Blackburn, and public safety is something I take very seriously. It’s important that people know they are protected if something goes wrong through the negligence of someone else and I pride myself on achieving a just outcome for those affected”. Dimi speaks fluent Greek and is actively involved in Melbourne’s Greek community. Accreditations & memberships Law Institute of Victoria Accredited Personal Injury Specialist Australian Lawyers Alliance member Law Institute of Victoria Public Liability Committee member Law Institute of Victoria Litigation Lawyers Executive Committee member  Leadership program, Mt Eliza Business School, 2014  ...

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