Vacation Rental Property Accident Claims
Injured On Vacation? Our Wilmington Vacation Rental Lawyers Can Help!
A relaxing weekend or long summer vacation can turn tragic when injuries occur due to the negligence of a rental property owner or management company. In North Carolina, vacation property owners and rental management companies have a duty to keep their rental homes, condos, decks, and properties in a safe and habitable condition to avoid injury to their renters.
When Time Off Becomes Tragedy Due to Vacation Rental Property Accidents
Individuals and rental companies that provide vacation homes to rent must adhere to state building and maintenance codes. If they fail to do so, however determining fault and liability for injuries can be challenging. This is because of the disconnect and insurance differences between homeowners and rental management companies.
Homeowners are only in their rental homes a few times a year and place trust in their rental company, which means the two parties are rarely communicating about important inspections and maintenance, if at all. This lack of contact can result in injuries from:
- Deck collapses
- Improperly cleaned hot tubs
- Poorly maintained or poorly lit walkways and access paths
- Boat dock and pier collapses
- Saltwater air damage to building materials
Injured at an Airbnb? We Can Help.
Airbnb revolutionized the vacation rental industry when it launched in 2008 and provided an easy platform for homeowners to rent their partial or entire properties for short-term stays. While most stays are comfortable, safe, and successful, what happens when you have an accident and suffer severe injury? The answers can be complicated due to the various insurance policies and rules that exist.
VRBO Injury Lawsuits
VRBO is another home-sharing platform that allows owners to rent their homes for short or long stays while they are away. While VRBO is similar to Airbnb, it supports full-home rentals exclusively and offers far few listings.
VRBO offers complimentary $1,000,000 primary insurance to homeowners, which means recovering compensation for an injury sustained while you are renting a home on VRBO can be a more straightforward process.
The North Carolina Vacation Rental Act
Thankfully, legislators have recognized the size and growth of the tourism industry within our state and taken note of how owners of private residences rent their properties for vacation and leisure purposes. As a result, the North Carolina Vacation Rental Act was implemented to regulate the responsibilities among landlords, brokers of real estate, and renters (tenants).
Vacation rental properties are rented for periods less than 90 days by individuals who have a place of residence that they will be returning to. This legislation does not apply to hotels, motels, camps, dwellings rented for traveling business or employment reasons, or rentals that will be the primary residence of the tenant.
The Duty of Care
Property owners owe a duty of care to those on their property, particularly when they rent their property to another. They are responsible for providing a safe, healthy environment free from dangerous hazards. For example, if a guest tripped and fell at your home, the injuries would likely be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, most homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover accidents that occur when a property is rented for commercial gain, as with Airbnb.
To solve this, Airbnb recently began offering secondary coverage of up to $1,000,000 to their hosts, which means they expect their hosts to rely on their homeowner’s insurance first. In other words, Airbnb’s insurance policy will only cover compensation above and beyond what the homeowner’s personal insurance covers.
For an injured person, this means one thing: recovering compensation after an accident at an Airbnb can be a complicated process best navigated with the help of a practiced, knowledgeable premises liability attorney who will vigorously protect your right to full and fair compensation.
Vacation Rental Agreements (VRAs)
A VRA is a written document signed by landlords, real estate brokers, and tenants for the purpose of renting a vacation property. The terms will contain the required payment(s) to be obtained from the tenant. Other details will include advance deposits to secure the rental and the tenant’s responsibilities for any damage caused. The VRA should contain details about fees for processing, cleaning, eviction details, and other obligations of the landlord, broker, or tenant. The contract is a binding agreement according to North Carolina law, regardless of the state of the tenant’s primary residence.
Responsibilities of Landlords and Brokers
Landlords of vacation rental properties must comply with applicable building and housing codes. They must conduct the necessary maintenance and repairs to ensure habitable and safe conditions. Some items which may need service include plumbing, electrical, heating, appliances, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Brokers who are responsible for property management on behalf of the landlord shall adhere to the VRA terms: this includes notifying the landlord of needed repairs and facilitating their completion. Additionally, they too must check smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries, although ultimate liability for detectors rests with the landlord.
Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities
Tenants are to keep areas of occupancy clean, safe, and sanitary, which includes fixing plumbing problems and disposing of garbage and waste properly.
Tenants must also avoid damaging, destroying, or disabling any parts of the property or its safety devices. They must notify the landlord of needed repair or maintenance concerns. Damages caused by the tenant beyond normal “wear and tear” may be paid for by the landlord using tenant funds from the advanced rental deposit.
North Carolina Premises Liability Law
Premises liability law involves the duty or obligation of owners to keep their property reasonably safe for lawful visitors. Lawful visitors are those legally on the property – not trespassers. If there are possibly dangerous conditions, owners must inform visitors, as failing to do so creates potential liability for injuries. Financial compensation for the injured may include medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earnings, disfigurement, and emotional distress. In the event that the owner is determined to have willfully, maliciously, or fraudulently caused the injury, punitive damages may be added to punish the owner and serve as a deterrent. The owner’s insurance company is likely the entity that actually pays for the damages. Ways to prove premises liability include showing that:
- The claimant sustained an injury due to a defect or condition on property under the defendant’s ownership or control
- An injury was caused by a failure of the defendant(s) to maintain reasonably safe conditions or to warn of dangers.
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Premises Liability Defenses
Under the contributory negligence doctrine, a claimant found to have contributed to the cause of injury is barred from recovering damages. Claimants must also adhere to the statute of limitations, meaning they must file within 3 years of their accident.
At Rhine Law Firm, P.C., our Wilmington premises liability attorneys have both personal injury and construction accident experience – a combination vacation rental accident victims find very valuable. We will help you explore all your legal options and employ our resources in pursuit of the best outcome.
Injured in a North Carolina Vacation Home? Contact Rhine Law Firm, P.C.
We offer free initial consultations with experienced rental property accidents lawyers. Appointments are available online and by phone and we have evening and weekend availability. We also offer Spanish interpretation and translation services to our non-English-speaking clients.
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