Airbnb has been recognized for changing how people think about the hospitality industry. The company has allowed property owners to make their vacant properties available for any party registered with Airbnb as a user. Founded in 2008, Airbnb has grown from a couch-surfing alternative to one of the biggest hospitality companies in the world, with over 5.6 million listings. Unfortunately, as Airbnb listings increased, so did the number of dangerous incidents— everything from concealed cameras and gas leaks to sexual assault.
According to Bloomberg, former Airbnb employees said the company deals yearly with thousands of sexual assault allegations. However, regulators, researchers, and the public have had little visibility into the scope of safety incidents involving Airbnb.
Until 2017, every person who signed an agreement with Airbnb regarding sexual assault instances was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. By doing so, the agreement would prevent individuals from:
Due to these agreements, many survivors’ hands were tied. They were unable to share their stories, so their claims went unreported. In addition, these agreements prevented Airbnb guests and hosts from suing the company in court, where documents are made available to the public.
In 2021, Airbnb said it would allow hosts and guests to sue the company over claims of sexual assault and harassment in its listings, lifting a mandatory arbitration clause buried in its 40-page terms of service for over a decade. This decision was made after a Bloomberg Businessweek investigation of violent crimes, including rape incidents, at Airbnb’s listings was published for the public. Instead, Airbnb replaced the NDA section of its payout agreement with a narrower clause that says recipients can’t discuss the terms of their settlement or imply that it’s an admission of wrongdoing.
The Bloomberg story highlighted what the company would do to silence these victims’ voices— sometimes spending millions of dollars on settlement payouts and using the binding arbitration clause in its terms of service to block users from filing claims for damages in a courtroom.
Airbnb has a past of paying out victims of the worst crimes at the company’s short-term rental properties to keep news of the disasters quiet. Within the company, there is a secretive team known as the ‘black box’ team that consists of about 100 agents in cities worldwide, several of whom have backgrounds in military or emergency services.
This team has the autonomy to make a victim feel supported, including paying for flights, accommodation, food, counseling, health costs, and sexually transmitted diseases testing for rape victims.
On one occasion, a rape victim received a $7 million payout in exchange for agreeing not to “imply responsibility or liability” on Airbnb or the host after a “career criminal” used a duplicate key to enter a New York City rental to rape and attack her at knifepoint.
The company says its safety agents are taught to prioritize customers in crisis. Yet, many understood themselves to have a dual role of protecting the individual and Airbnb’s public image.
In most cases, you may be eligible to bring legal action against the party that directly assaulted you. This can include the host, other guests, visitors, or even trespassers on the property.
Although the company doesn’t have any hands-on individuals there, such as security guards, it is in agreement that you will not be harmed while staying at a location booked with the website. Therefore, if the property manager or homeowner carries out injuries, you could bring the issue up to Airbnb.
You may need an Airbnb lawyer if:
The statute of limitation for filing an Airbnb lawsuit depends may depend on several factors. The clock starts ticking the moment your assault occurred, so it’s best to consult an attorney right away to figure out how long you have to file and what damages you may be able to recover through a civil lawsuit.
If you have been sexually assaulted in an Airbnb, you should do the following:
No matter what, you need to receive some form of medical attention and police intervention. By not doing so, you run the risk of suffering more harm and not having enough forms of evidence to file a lawsuit. In addition, the faster you act, the more likely it will be that you will receive justice for your damages.
Contact our office today if you or someone you love has experienced sexual assault while staying in an Airbnb. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone, and you don’t have to. Some of the ways that an Airbnb sexual assault attorney can help include:
You shouldn’t have to pay for a visit after going through a traumatic situation. For over 45 years, The Carlson Law Firm has helped Texans during some of their most difficult times. Contact us to schedule a confidential and free consultation. We care, and we can help.
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