Airbnb neighbour damages your property? Insurance won’t help

By Lisa Tanh

A freehold property owner in Vancouver claims Wawanesa Insurance will not cover damage incurred by neighbouring Airbnb operators.

Last week, Shane Richardson, a freehold property owner in Vancouver, renewed his home insurance with Wawanesa Insurance, one of the largest property and casualty insurers in Canada. Wawanesa operates all over Canada and within California and Oregon in the United States.

Richardson claims Wawanesa said they will not cover damage incurred by neighbouring Airbnb operators and vice versa.

“They said because it’s illegal, we won’t cover you,” Richardson said. “So I said, what about our neighbors? And they said, if your neighbors run an Airbnb, then you’re not covered either.”

Stefan Tirschler, product + underwriting manager at Square One Insurance Services, the first home insurance provider in Canada to design coverage specifically for short-term rental operators, said this depends on the kind of home insurance that the Airbnb operator had purchased.

“If the Airbnb operator did not advise their home insurance provider of their Airbnb operation and if the Airbnb operator did not purchase a home insurance policy that was designed for short-term rentals, then the Airbnb operator’s policy might indeed exclude coverage for their liability to neighbours who were damaged,” Tirschler said.

Richardson claimed the activity that incurs damage does not have to be illegal.

“If something catches fire and that fire hops houses and burns half the block down, we all have to make a claim on our own insurance – even though it’s no fault of our own,” Richardson said.

Richardson claimed that Wawanesa said clients can personally sue their neighbour and advised him not to.

“The burden goes on the neighbors to go after that person personally or subject themselves to a higher rate class and higher risk class with their insurance company,” Richardson said.

Tirschler said this is not necessarily the case.

“Home insurance premiums are calculated using dozens of factors. While making a claim may result in a temporary increase in premium, this pales in comparison to the costs of pursuing litigation against a third party. Homeowners with established claims-free insurance history may even enjoy protection from losing their claims-free discount,” Tirschler said.

Following Richardson renewing his home insurance, he took to Twitter to share his conversation with Wawanesa. The tweet has created a discussion on how a neighbor’s activity affects an individual’s home insurance and if the city in Richardson’s jurisdiction can be sued.

Wawanesa could not be reached for comment.

[Photo Credit: Mike Gabelmann]