Offering a Hot Tub or Sauna at Your Airbnb? Consider This.

There is no denying that offering spa amenities like a hot tub or sauna can add a touch of luxury to any short-term rental property. The thought of sinking into warm, bubbling water in a jacuzzi at your Vrbo or relaxing in a sauna at your Airbnb can be a major draw for potential guests. It can also help to further set your property apart in an increasingly competitive vacation rental market. In fact, hot tubs are one of the most searched for amenities on Airbnb.

However, as with any short-term rental amenity, offering a sauna or hot tub comes with its own set of added responsibility and risks.

As a short-term rental property owner, it’s crucial to understand the risks of providing spa amenities at your vacation property and how to manage them effectively. Ignoring these risks can not only lead to unpleasant experiences for your guests but also result in costly damage or legal issues for you, the short-term rental owner.

In this blog post, we’ll outline the potential risks and provide strategies to mitigate them. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge to offer a safer, more relaxing experience for your Airbnb guests while protecting your vacation rental investment and reputation as a responsible short-term rental property owner.

Airbnb outdoor hot tub

The Threat of Communicable Disease: Hot Tub Rash, Legionnaires’ Disease and more

One of the most common health concerns associated with hot tub use is a condition known as ‘hot tub rash’, or pseudomonas dermatitis/hot tub folliculitis. This skin infection is caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which thrives in warm, wet environments like hot tubs, especially those that are not properly maintained.

The symptoms of hot tub rash can range from itchy, red bumps after a few hours of exposure, to pus-filled blisters after a few days. Not only can this result in an unpleasant experience for your short-term rental guests, but it can also lead to potential legal issues and damage to your property’s reputation.

You may be thinking, “Can an Airbnb guest sue for a hot tub rash?” Absolutely! Airbnb guests can sue their host for a range of things, further underlining the importance of having comprehensive short-term rental insurance.

Understanding Hot Tub Liability Through the Poage v. Cox LLC Case

Take the example of the Poage v. Cox LLC case: After staying in a short-term rental property in North Carolina with a hot tub and waterfall, husband and wife Cheryl and Robert Poage contracted Legionnaires’ disease (a life-threatening form of pneumonia). The court ruled that both the property owners and the hot tub maintenance company had a duty of care to ensure the safe and sanitary condition of these amenities, emphasizing the importance of regular maintenance to prevent the growth of bacteria in hot tubs at short-term rentals.

Risk Mitigation Tips

Professional Cleaning: Hiring professionals to regularly service the short-term rental hot tub is a crucial step of your post-stay inspection. Professionals can maintain the right chemical balance, ensuring the water is clean and safe for use, thus reducing the risk of bacterial infections like Legionnaire’s disease and Airbnb hot tub rash. 

Signage: Clear and visible signs near the hot tub area at your Airbnb can be an effective way to communicate safety measures and rules. These might include reminders about showering before use, only using the hot tub for a set period at a time, not bringing glass containers into the area, or limiting the number of people in the hot tub at one time.

In this video YouTuber Clos examines the hot tub at an Airbnb in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee while he and his wife were vacationing. He points out some red flags of this particular Airbnb’s hot tub underlining the importance of having your hot tub properly cleaned and inspected after each use.

Alcohol & Hot Tubs: A Risky Combination for Airbnb Guests

Another risk comes in the form of alcohol consumption while using a hot tub at a Vrbo or Airbnb. We all know that people love to unwind and enjoy alcohol while on vacation. However, the heat from the hot tub or sauna can amplify the effects of alcohol, leading to increased drowsiness that could potentially result in injuries or even drowning. 

Understanding Liability Through the Smith vs. Airbnb Case 

The Smith vs. Airbnb, Inc. case emphasizes the heightened risks associated with hot tub usage combined with alcohol consumption at short-term rentals. In this instance, Sarah Smith, who was celebrating a birthday at a vacation rental in Oregon, fell from the deck after using the Airbnb’s hot tub alone post-drinking. In this case Airbnb was protected from legal responsibility under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but this doesn’t mean the host was off the hook. Hosts have to understand their own legal responsibilities, highlighting the need for comprehensive short-term rental insurance. 

Risk Mitigation Tips

Waiver of Use in House Rules: It’s important to clearly communicate to guests that they are using the hot tub at their own risk. Incorporating a waiver of use in your short-term rental house rules makes guests aware of their responsibility and could help protect you, the short-term host. And while it won’t get you off the hook in a court of law, it at least gives your lawyer something to build their defense on.

Grip Tape: Slip and fall accidents are common especially in cold places where the water quickly becomes ice. Slip and falls are actually the most common insurance claim year-over-year. Applying grip tape on the stairs leading into the hot tub can drastically reduce these incidents.

Respecting Guest Privacy

While Airbnb and Vrbo hosts may want to install outdoor security cameras with the intention of enhancing security, it’s crucial to consider invasion of privacy implications. A camera overlooking a hot tub can inadvertently invade guests’ privacy. 

For instance, families with children might feel uncomfortable knowing their kids in bathing suits could be filmed. Couples seeking a romantic getaway may find the presence of a camera distressing as well. It’s essential for short-term rental owners to remove security cameras that overlook hot tubs with respect to privacy concerns. 

Surveillance is not only one of the biggest liability exposures to vacation rental owners but to the industry as a whole. Privacy is one of the big attractions of vacation rentals, and the introduction of security cameras can eliminate this privacy.  

And while you may think that surveillance cameras could aid in catching guests in the act of wrongdoing, it’s quite the opposite. Surveillance in private areas such as overlooking the hot tub in the backyard of your short-term rental would likely find the host guilty of invading their guests’ privacy. 

If you’re set on having a security camera on property, only put a camera up that covers your front door and the area of the driveway that connects to a public street and then clearly communicate the locations of all security cameras to guests before their stay.

Potential for Deck Collapse

When discussing the risks associated with hot tubs at short-term rentals, we have to touch on the possibility of a deck collapse. 

Think about it: the addition of a hot tub significantly increases the load on the deck, particularly when it is filled with water and occupied by multiple guests or even the well-attended undisclosed-to-you Airbnb party. If the deck is not designed to handle such weight, it could lead to a deck collapse and in turn, major liability claims for you, the short-term rental owner.

In May 2023 a deck collapsed at a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee while a young girl was using the hot tub on the deck of the vacation rental her family was staying at. Fortunately, in a follow-up update on the original post, the girl was reported to have only suffered from a concussion. Although the original social media post has since been removed, this incident underlines the importance of hot tub placement and routine deck inspections.

Risk Mitigation Tips

Hot Tub Placement: Prior to installing a hot tub at your short-term rental, it’s crucial to consult with a structural engineer or a professional contractor to assess the deck’s ability to safely support the additional weight of the hot tub and your guests. You could also consider installing the hot tub on level ground and building the deck around it to ensure safe weight distribution.

Routine Deck Inspections: Regular maintenance and inspections of your deck are important in detecting any signs that could compromise the deck’s integrity over time.

Guest-Caused Hot Tub Damage 

Finally, there’s the risk of damage to your short-term rental hot tub caused by guests. This could range from minor issues such as broken jets to major problems like leaks or structural damage, which can be costly to repair. 

To mitigate these risks, consider having a damage waiver like the one offered by Waivo that covers guest-caused damage, setting clear guidelines for hot tub use, or at minimum, including specific terms in your rental agreement regarding responsibility for damages. 

Risk Mitigation Tips

Regular Maintenance: Ensure that the Airbnb hot tub’s mechanical components are regularly checked and maintained. This includes monitoring the pump, heater, and filter system, among other components. Regular maintenance can help identify potential issues early, preventing unexpected breakdowns that could lead to guest dissatisfaction or, worse, injuries.

Safety Latch: By installing a hot tub latch that cannot be easily opened, you add an extra layer of safety. This can help prevent unauthorized or unsupervised access to the hot tub.

Mitigating the Risks of Hot Tubs and Saunas at Short-Term Vacation Rentals 

It’s important to keep in mind that no matter how many steps you take towards offering a safe short-term rental, there will always be risk present when introducing a variety of people to a property they’ve never been at before; that’s why it’s important to have comprehensive short-term rental insurance that includes an adequate liability limit for instances like a slip and fall, drowning, communicable disease, liquor related incidents, and more.

Call Proper Insurance for a consultation or get a quote online in minutes.

The Proper Insurance Policy: Built for Short-Term Rental Hosts with Spa Amenities 

Insurance is a critical business component for Airbnb hosts and vacation rental owners, especially when offering amenities such as hot tubs and saunas. Short-term vacation rentals pose unique risks that standard Homeowners and Landlord insurance policies were never designed to cover.  

The Proper Insurance policy completely replaces an inadequate Homeowners or Landlord policies with unmatched protection for your short-term rental property, revenue and business liability. For hosts that offer amenities like a hot tub or sauna at their Airbnb having comprehensive coverage is crucial.  

Liability Coverage 

The Proper insurance policy comes standard with $1million in liability coverage, with the option to increase your coverage to $2million. In addition, the Proper Insurance policy covers all legal expenses associated with a covered claim at no cost to you. 

Liability coverage would cover incidents like slips and falls, drowning, or communicable diseases like hot tub rash that might occur in the short-term rental hot tub or sauna area. Furthermore, the Proper policy includes liquor liability, ensuring that hosts are protected even if accidents involve alcohol. 

Equipment Breakdown Coverage 

Proper Insurance offers equipment breakdown coverage for mechanical, electrical and pressure system failures for short-term rental hot tub or sauna but also extends to cover other equipment at your vacation rental property like your hot water heater, air conditioner, refrigerator, heating, smart home systems, and more. 

Replacement Cost 

The Proper Insurance policy pays replacement cost due to a covered cause of loss instead of other policies that pay actual cash value (which is based on the age and condition of the hot tub). If your hot tub needs to be replaced due to a covered cause of loss, the Proper policy will pay you for the cost of a new hot tub comparable to the model that you had. 

Business Revenue Coverage 

Should your hot tub become non-operational due to a covered loss, the Proper Insurance policy may respond with our business revenue coverage. This applies when the amenity in question, like a hot tub, is owned by you and is part of your property’s unique appeal to guests. Please note that this does not apply in an instance of loss of market or when the amenity is a communal feature of a condo or apartment complex.

Upgrade Your Short-Term Rental Insurance Today 

Want to learn more about Proper Insurance’s unmatched coverage? Interested in a policy to protect you and your business from liability and damage claims? 

Proper Insurance is the nation’s leading short-term rental insurance provider protecting homes in all 50 states. Backed by Lloyd’s of London, Concert Specialty, and exclusive endorsements from vacation rental leaders such as Vrbo, Proper Insurance is built on world-class insurance coverage. 

Proper’s policy covers vacation homes, townhouses, condos, duplexes, cabins, cottages, apartments, and more. With expert vacation rental underwriters, we can tailor a policy specific to your short-term rental property.

About the Author

Justin Brodin

Justin Brodin is the Marketing Director at Proper Insurance, where he specializes in short-term rental insurance education. With six years of experience in the STR industry, Justin has developed a deep understanding of the unique needs and challenges short-term rental owners and operators face. He currently resides in Austin, TX, where he enjoys the warm vibes of the city and spends his free time on the water.

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