There’s plenty of information about what happens for Airbnb owners when something goes wrong, but what about for guests? What am I responsible for in an Airbnb for damage caused during a genuine accident?
So… I Had a Little Accident
It was a morning unlike any other, I got up to make breakfast for my family in the kitchen of our gorgeous Airbnb home. I never make breakfast but I was feeling inspired by the beautiful setting, clean kitchen and feeling of being completely on holiday. Have I mentioned this home is stunning? In a nutshell, it’s what vacation dreams are made of. As far as the area we are staying in, this home is on the pricier side for accommodations, but still affordable at $165/nt and worth every penny.
We arrived earlier than expected and got to the home while the property manager and cleaning crew were still getting everything tidied up. The PM told us we were welcome to stay while they finished up or gave us a few pointers about the area in case we wanted to just drop our bags and run out.
We opted for the latter and after about an hour, we returned to the home where the work was finished and the home was spotless. We exchanged a few pleasantries and asked a bunch of questions about the area, not the home. We never really walked through the property or remembered to ask questions such as where we should take the trash when it’s full. We are obviously very used to hotels and rarely stay in Airbnbs.
As I was saying before, it was a morning unlike any other – I threw some butter in the pan and it melted slower than I expected but I figured I just hadn’t found the correct temperature on the stovetop yet. Once melted, I poured in the eggs and let them sit before scrambling. As the eggs were almost finished I added some leftover meat from dinner the night before, threw on a couple of tortillas, and BOOM! An explosion of glass is how I remember it. Pieces of glass went flying everywhere, bursting and some landing as far as 10 feet away.
Then it occurred to me, this was not a glass stovetop… this was a gas stove with a glass cover on it. A glass cover that was supposed to be removed before you use it of course.
Duh moment. I could not believe I did not remove the cover and essentially just lit this piece of glass on fire until it ruptured. Of course, breakfast took unusually long to cook but it made it all the way to finished cooking before shattering the glass into a million tiny pieces of shrapnel.
It’s My Fault, No Doubt About It
All mistakes seem obvious and easily avoided in retrospect, trust me I feel foolish but I was simply unfamiliar with this stove. I kept replaying the scenario in my head over and over again thinking to myself how in the world did I not realize what I was doing? And why did we not ask the property manager to walk us through the home when we arrived? We may have been told of this tiny detail or even asked how to use it. There are dozens of ways I could have and should have been able to avoid this silly accident, but it happened and after it was cleaned up, I needed to move on.
My second thought after “Wow, I’m so dumb,” was ” This is going to be so expensive to replace.” This home is gorgeous, its luxurious finishes were done to a high standard. The piece I destroyed was probably custom-fitted or premium name brand, but whatever it ends up to be, it’s my fault and no one else’s.
My husband had been in touch with the property manager who would serve as our point of contact during this stay and gave her a call after the incident occurred that morning. There were no immediate details of what we should expect to happen or how much we would need to pay, but we took ownership of my mistake and apologized. However, I still couldn’t help but wonder what should I expect next and how we go about any process for this type of incident. It’s not like a broke a small household item, I destroyed a very specific piece of property.
The Property Has a Damage Disclaimer
After reaching out to our contact, we searched for what types of damages that Airbnb covers for their hosts or what type of protections are in place both for the host and the guest. Are there any deposits that are charged like that of a hotel during check-in? I also went back through the listing for the home we were staying in and found this written in the “Other Things to Note” section:
Security Deposit – if you damage the home, you may be charged up to $200
What exactly this means is still a mystery to me. Do we pay to replace the item that was damaged? Do we pay for damages of up to $200? Are we expected to replace the item and pay a $200 fee? I would assume that people who rent out their home expect there will be accidents and costs associated with missing or broken items, but how much is taken into consideration for these incidentals? Obviously in this case this is more than just breaking a dish or losing a remote. Had I broken the air conditioner it would have been unfair to the owner to get away with paying as little as $200, but the language doesn’t really specify for anything over that amount.
When I searched for answers on Airbnb I found that there are protections provided to hosts that can be found on their website. I struggled to find information to guests in the home who have caused damage and what they should expect as far as fees are concerned.
It was clearly an accident, not an act of malice but it is also not the host’s fault that I did not remove the stovetop cover before cooking. I am responsible for the incident so what would be fair for me to expect?
In my opinion, having something in place such as a damage waiver of up to $200 is a fair compromise. This would help eliminate any disputes about whether a replacement cost is accurate and fair – what if the property owner decided that instead of just replacing the piece of glass they’d have to buy a whole new stove and oven instead? However, more expensive items that could be damaged and not repaired like televisions, air conditioners, or other major appliances, I would think that a fee of $200 would be too low.
And in that case…
A full replacement cost is fair too, though, in some instances, you may replace something that was already worn or damaged with something new which seems unfair to the renter. In my situation, this home is still quite new and replacing the exact item with a brand new one would not be unreasonable; but not both. A renter should not have to both cover the replacement of the asset and incur a $200 fee.
One thing is for certain, I’m not going to make breakfast tomorrow.
What Should a Guest Do If They Damage an Airbnb home?
Instructions are different for Airbnb guests as opposed to Airbnb hosts. Either guest or homewoner can request money from the other party, claim an incident, and puruse a result.
Upon checking in, a guest agrees to abide by host guarantee terms and conditions. That likely means that they need to apply with any requested reimbursement for any damage they cause outside of normal wear and tear. Guests should first examine a home and if they feel compelled, consider taking photos of any pre-existing damage they find within the home.
If a guest accidentally damages a home, they should take some steps. First, they should provide documentation of the damaged item and include photos. This is for Airbnb, the insurance agents, and the protection of the renter in case unrelated damages may be accidentally attributed to this event.
They should then contact the host as soon as possible to notify them. If the homeowner places a questionable price on the replacement or you are unable to come to an agreement, it’s important to then contact Airbnb’s resolution center. You should wait at least 72 hours to do so, and you can access it from the app.
If an item in your home has been damaged by a guest, homeowners have 14 days to file a claim on security deposit-related items and up to 60 days on non-security deposit claims, or in either case, before the next guest checks in. Airbnb includes host protection insurance of up to $1MM that covers the property and its contents, bodily injury, or property damage to others as a result of your guests.
If a guest reaches out with an issue, a swift response is important to protect your assets. If a homeowner discovers damage that was unreported, they should first contact the guest and should that fail by the same 72-hour timeline, then pursue the resolution center.
What would you expect to the costs to be in a situation like this? Have you had any similar experience as a guest or a host with accidental damages in an Airbnb?