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Airbnb boosts insurance coverage for Canadian members

Airbnb is adding a new level of insurance coverage in Canada as part of wider support for people who list their properties through its service.

Host Protection Insurance goes beyond damage coverage to include liability

A Calgary family found their couch cushions thrown on the floor in their kitchen and covered in mayonnaise after renting it through Airbnb. Airbnb promised to cover an estimated $75,000 in damage to the home. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Airbnb is adding a new level of insurance coverage in Canada as part of wider support for people who list their properties through its service.

The online accommodation provider announced Thursday that its Host Protection Insurance program, which launched earlier this year in the United States, would be rolled out in 15 more countries.

The expanded coverage will provide compensation if a guest is injured at a property listed on Airbnb and brings a claim against the host.

The insurance could also cover damages a guest causes to the surrounding area of a property — such as accidental water damage if a pipe burst affects a neighbouring apartment.

Coverage, which comes at no additional cost to the host, tops out at $1 million, the company said.

"We put the program together because we know it's something our hosts have been asking for," said Jacob Kerr of Airbnb.

He said the Host Guarantee program, in place for the last four years, covers damage to the renter's property, but this new program adds liability insurance.

The Host Protection Insurance program, which will be provided through a partnership with a Lloyd's of London participating insurer, comes after Airbnb satisfied the insurers with its previous product, said Airbnb product lead Jonathan Golden.

Challenge to create insurance products

"The insurance industry is not fast paced, so it has taken time to educate them on these platforms," he said.

"It has been a challenge to handle products like these (which are) unique and individual solutions."

Airbnb has been growing in popularity as the so-called "sharing economy" becomes more commonplace with the help of taxi-hailing service Uber and various other apps.

Goldem said Airbnb executives wanted to lineup a significant number of countries before it launched the expanded insurance coverage. In addition to Canada, the program moves into popular destinations in Europe such as the U.K., France, Germany and Italy.

Since its U.S. launch in January, less than 50 claims have been filed under the Host Protection program when factoring in all of the 8 million guest bookings, he said.

Airbnb, which offers a substitute to hotels, has about 33,000 host listings across Canada.

High-profile problems

Few of those bookings have resulted in major issues for the company, but some of the higher profile problems have raised red flags for insurance companies.

In May, a Calgary family discovered their home was trashed amid a "drug-induced orgy" by hard-partying renters. Property damage was assessed at around $75,000, though Airbnb said it would cover the costs at the time.

"We worked with the host in that particular case under the Host Guarantee program that covers property damage," Kerr told CBC.

Governments across the country have started to voice concerns about the ramifications of an unregulated sharing economy.

In Quebec, Tourism Minister Dominique Vien is pushing for a law which clearly differentiates between legal accommodation websites like Airbnb and some of the smaller competitors who aren't necessarily operating within requirements and paying taxes.

With files from CBC News

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