May Contain Nuts – A Note of Caution for Vacation Rental Owners


chipmunk I’m not alone in wondering when common sense died, and humans ceased to accept responsibility for their actions. I’ve laughed in disbelief at stories of claims made against companies who failed to inform people that coffee may be hot, or that they should not make coffee in the back of their RV while leaving it in cruise control on the Interstate. Just taking a look at our vehicle’s user manual shows where this is going. Ours cautions against driving under a low bridge while standing with one’s head out of the sun roof, and warns that that a reading of above 0c on the temperature gauge doesn’t indicate a road is not icy. And of course, there’s that bag of sliced almonds I bought yesterday that clearly states, “May Contain Nuts”

This sparked off a discussion that began with a complaint we received from a rental guest this summer. Apparently, her baby was bitten ‘more than once’ (by which we assume was twice) by a mosquito, and since we had not pre-warned her there were mosquitoes in cottage country, she had not brought a mosquito net with her. Because of this they left the cottage after three days and demanded a refund for the entire cost of their stay. There were some other issues mainly concerning their inability to go outside of the cottage because it kept raining, but that aside, it did raise the question of how much warning should be given about potential ‘dangers’ involved in renting a vacation property.

Another complaint raised against an owner involved a listing that described the beach area as being ‘great for children’. Sadly, the owner had neglected to tell the renter that there was deeper water off the end of the dock which ‘posed considerable danger’ for her small children.  This time the renter demanded compensation for the anxiety she suffered during a week of having to supervise her own children – who incidentally, were 7 and 10 years old.

So, what would have happened if the baby had contracted West Nile Virus from the mosquito bite, or a child had wandered unsupervised to the end of the dock and fallen off and drowned? Could the owner be sued for failing to point out all the potential dangers of taking a vacation? Is a simple waiver of liability sufficient to cover these risks? It’s got me thinking hard enough to talk to our insurers but for now I’d be interested in hearing how other owners deal with the potential of liability claims.

Photo on Flickr by Gilles Gonthier


$5 million umbrella policy. I hope to God it is enough to protect me if a child drowns in our swimming pool.


Hi Cottage,

I understand your problem. Our company is subject to similar situation as are most other vacation rental companies. To sleep well at night and for the protection you need to do so spend the money on a good lawyer that will draft you up a rental contract that covers everything from mosquito’s to hang nails. This way when those type of people come for a stay you can relax knowing that you have done everything you can to cover yourself and business. All types of business suffer similar type worries and not just us in the vacation rental industry. Get Em Booked! Scott

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