Surveillance is a Bad Look for the Vacation Rental Industry

Both Airbnb & Vrbo promote their “free” liability insurance, which extends to all bookings via their platforms. However, both specifically exclude violations of privacy, as highlighted in this article.

A woman looks up at a security camera on the wall

Airbnb & Vrbo Liability Exclusions

EXCLUSIONS – Personal and Advertising Injury: Injury or alleged injury caused by slander, libel, violations of privacy, advertising, or wrongful eviction.

If their free liability insurance does NOT COVER any potential liability exposure for invasion or violation of privacy, such as Airbnb security cameras, then why take such a hardline stance in their company policies?

The reason is surveillance is not only one of the biggest liability exposures to vacation rental owners, but to the industry as a whole. Hilton, Marriot, and Hyatt would love nothing more than for Airbnb & Vrbo rentals to be branded or labeled as surveilled or not private.

Travelers Book Vacation Rentals Because They are Private, and There is an Assumption of Privacy

One of the big attractions of vacation rentals or alternative accommodations is privacy. Guests are free to use the kitchen, cook with their friends and family, relax on the back patio, or even jump in the hot tub if one’s available. The minute security cameras are introduced, that privacy goes away, and it’s a big problem for not only property owner liability, but for Airbnb and Vrbo as well.

Go into any Lowe’s or Home Depot, and you can buy a complete home surveillance camera kit for under $300. What was once only available to the rich and famous is now available to anyone. A phrase that comes to mind is, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

How does Airbnb & Vrbo educate 2,000,000+ hosts and owners in the U.S. that security cameras and surveillance, in general, is a bad idea?

Airbnb & Vrbo Have Strict Surveillance and Security Camera Policies

Airbnb’s surveillance policy is very clear:

  • What we do allow is disclosed monitoring of only public spaces and common spaces (ex: a front door or a driveway) or a common space that is clearly identified and disclosed ahead of a reservation.

And Vrbo’s surveillance policy is no different:

  • Areas where guests have a reasonable expectation of privacy should not be under surveillance.

Remember, Airbnb and Vrbo provide no insurance coverage for invasion of privacy, yet they still take a hard line position in their company policies.

Is There Middle Ground & How Does Hosts/Owner’s Insurance Fit In?

Proper Insurance has a unique perspective as we are the nation’s largest insurer of vacation rentals, and have responded to multiple invasion of privacy claims.

In fact, our most recent claim involves a guest who was frequently smoking cigarettes’ near the front door, which was monitored via a doorbell security camera. The guest was confronted by the property owner as this is a complete non-smoking property. Now the guest is suing for invasion of privacy as the only way the property owner could have known was via the doorbell camera. People do not like being watched by security cameras, especially on vacation. Invasion of privacy coverage is only provided via Personal & Advertising Injury. If you do not have this, then you do not have coverage. This coverage is not provided in a homeowner’s or landlord insurance policy.

Proper is one of the only carriers to include Personal & Advertising Injury in our policy coverage. However, we recently limited the scope of this coverage via an exclusion titled Private Area Surveillance Exclusion. Simply explained, we did not want a few bad actors to ultimately raise everyone’s insurance rates due to $1,000,000 invasion of privacy lawsuits.

What this means is we only provide coverage if the surveillance is considered public such as the exterior of the front door on the street side and that section of the driveway connected to a public street. Basically, a camera at the front door and the driveway is OK, but anything outside of that, there is no coverage. Mind you, the surveillance must be disclosed to the renter.

What About Airbnb Security Cameras Found in Backyards, Fences, Alleys, or Locked Off Areas of a Rental?

The answer is no. Get rid of those cameras as guests have an assumption of privacy and if they feel like they are being watched, they will sue you. Take a minute to review state statutes on surveillance as it may be against the law.

We understand most vacation rentals have absentee owners, are more likely to be burglarized, and have unruly guests from time to time. That is what insurance is for! Proper has no limit on burglary, theft, vandalism, or damage caused by a guest. You are only subject to the limits you choose. Plus, a covered loss would trigger Proper’s lost business revenue coverage.

If your vacation rental was burglarized and you lost $25,000 worth of contents, the building was vandalized in the tune of $50,000, and as a result, you lost $25,000 worth of future bookings because the property could not be rented for 90 days, CALL US and file an insurance claim. We would much rather pay $100,000 for this burglary claim than a $1,000,000 invasion of privacy claim.

In Summary | Key Takeaways

If there is an absolute need to monitor the vacation rental property via camera surveillance, then do so, but only put a camera up that covers your front door and the area of the driveway that connects to a public street. And make sure to disclose this to your renters. If you choose to have surveillance beyond this, know that you are doing so with no insurance coverage.

Hopefully this article gives a better perspective on surveillance at vacation rentals. Please do your part to help Proper, Airbnb, and Vrbo educate the industry so we can continue to be the gold standard for alternative accommodations. Additional Resources: 99% of lawsuits do not make it to the press as it’s part of the settlement agreement, but here are a rare few that did involving Airbnb security cameras.

Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit #1

Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit #2

Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit #3

Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit #4

About the Author

Darren Pettyjohn

Darren Pettyjohn, Co-Founder of Proper Insurance, is a well-known expert and accomplished authority figure in the short-term rental insurance sector. With a rich history of pivotal contributions to the insurance industry before launching Proper Insurance, Darren's experience and expertise are unparalleled. Residing with his family in Bozeman, MT, Darren enjoys outdoor adventures like fly fishing and skiing. His professional success, paired with his personal passions, brings a vibrant approach to insurance that resonates with the short-term rental community.


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