The sharing economy can expose you to liability risks – here's how to protect yourself
- Written by Sally Shinan Zhu, Lecturer in Law, University of Sheffield
Sharing platforms have become a regular part of our lives for travel and daily needs, especially for young people. In 2018, Airbnb reported that the majority of its users were millennials. And with the ongoing cost of living crisis, more people may turn to these platforms as ways to save on their travel, or to make extra money by sharing their property.
Companies such as Airbnb and Turo (a car-sharing platform) are often more affordable and flexible than traditional hotels or car hire services. But using them can also expose you to liability risks if something goes awry. It might be tempting to assume that you are given the same rights as a consumer, but this is not the case.
When you hire a car through a traditional rental company, you enter a contract as a consumer and are protected under the UK’s Consumer Rights Act 2015. This guarantees you receive a safe and fit-for-purpose product or service, and certain rights to refunds.
Your rights and obligations on these platforms are therefore not covered by consumer protection regulations. Neither party is covered by the Consumer Rights Act, which only applies to business-to-consumer contracts.
Most major platforms will mandate third-party liability insurance. But pay attention to the excess amount, which may be much higher than your personal vehicle insurance, and can have an additional fee for processing claims.
For homes, you may be breaching either a term of your mortgage or your lease if you sublet on Airbnb. In the recent UK case of Bermondsey Exchange Freeholders Ltd v Ninos Koumetto, a court ruled that the tenant Airbnb host had breached the terms of his lease by subletting it.
Many platforms offer some sort of protection through their platforms, such as Airbnb’s AirCover for hosts and guests. But these are not the same as insurance policies, and don’t always cover everything. Airbnb’s host damage protection only covers those losses not covered by another party, such as your home insurer or the liable guest. This means contacting your insurer and potentially causing it to invalidate your insurance policy if you have been sharing without the insurer’s consent.
In a statement, Turo told The Conversation: “Turo has made trust and safety the bedrock of our platform and our protections have consistently worked as designed.” Airbnb chose not to comment for publication.
Currently, sharing platforms are largely unaddressed by law and there is little regulators can do about their practices. But if you understand the risks you are taking, you can protect yourself from unpleasant surprises.
1. Be familiar with your policies
If your insurance specifically disallows commercial activities, get in touch with your insurer to clarify, or switch to another insurer with sharing-friendly policies. This is particularly important if you regularly use sharing platforms, as you risk both personal liability towards your guest and losing your cover for your property.
2. Think about purchasing additional insurance
Look for a policy that covers you specifically for these activities. This will protect you if you are injured and the other party cannot compensate you. If you cause damage to someone else’s property, you can rely on insurance instead of being personally liable.
3. Read the terms and conditions
While trawling through pages of legal jargon might be unappealing, it is important to know where you stand with these companies. This could be as quick as reading through the FAQs on their websites, or looking out for disclaimer and waiver clauses before you click “accept”. Platforms such as Airbnb offer region-specific advice on the laws and regulations for using their services.
- ^ majority of its users (news.airbnb.com)
- ^ rights as a consumer (catererlicensee.com)
- ^ Consumer Rights Act 2015 (www.legislation.gov.uk)
- ^ on sharing platforms (lthj.qut.edu.au)
- ^ limited to providing that service (www.asherfergusson.com)
- ^ This article is part of Quarter Life (theconversation.com)
- ^ Five things you can do to save energy if you rent your home (theconversation.com)
- ^ Spotify Wrapped: how sharing your music tastes can drive feelings of Fomo (theconversation.com)
- ^ Moving back home doesn’t mean you’ve failed in life – here’s why (theconversation.com)
- ^ dispute resolution centres (www.airbnb.co.uk)
- ^ illegal in the UK (www.legislation.gov.uk)
- ^ at all times (turo.com)
- ^ LightField Studios / Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com)
- ^ Bermondsey Exchange Freeholders Ltd v Ninos Koumetto (www.falcon-chambers.com)
- ^ AirCover (www.airbnb.co.uk)
- ^ cover everything (www.airbnb.co.uk)
- ^ host damage protection (www.airbnb.co.uk)
- ^ liable guest (www.airbnb.co.uk)
- ^ advice (www.airbnb.co.uk)
Read more https://theconversation.com/the-sharing-economy-can-expose-you-to-liability-risks-heres-how-to-protect-yourself-191560