Short-term rental homeowners in Jamaica urged to explore hosting liabilities

Jamaica: People considering entering the short-term rental market are being warned to explore the liabilities associated with operating such establishments without specific regulations and guidelines.

The point was made at the RAJ Symposium 2018, organised by the Realtors Association of Jamaica (RAJ), in partnership with JN Bank. The symposium, held at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston, focused on the theme: ‘The Impact of Airbnb on Real Estate Investments and Tourism.’

Chairman of the Rent Assessment Board, Rose Bennett-Cooper, indicated there were liabilities that short-term rental and owner-occupied proprietors should take into account.

Regarding owners who choose to rent their homes on a short-term basis, the attorney-at-law noted that in the absence of specific regulations to govern the rental market, there are other laws under which proprietors can be held liable.

Bennett-Cooper said: “If you are paying me to stay in my place and I don’t take the necessary precautions in terms of food and otherwise, then you have certain rights and you can successfully bring action against me for failing to take the necessary steps to ensure there was food safety.”

She added that insurance was another area that short-term renters need to consider.

“They need to see whether or not they can engage in conversations with their insurers to see what are some of the things they (the insurers) could direct them to in terms of protection,” she said.

Her point was supported by Keith Senior, a consultant at JN Bank, who indicated that short term rental homeowners could be held liable for injuries sustained by their guests. Financial institutions primarily lend for the purpose of owner-occupied purchases.

Senior said: “There are inherent risks associated with the business, and you need to insulate yourself, and take those liabilities into consideration.”

Havannah Llewellyn, president of the Jamaica Home Sharing Association, said Airbnb provides a US$1 million policy for every booking made via its platform to indemnify its members who may face liability for injuries sustained by guests.

He said: “What we are doing is trying to get additional insurance for those individuals who book outside of Airbnb and also engage other platforms to do that.”

He explained that the additional layer of insurance would be provided to protect members of the Home Sharing Association who receive bookings via other platforms that may not provide a form of insurance coverage.