Summary of Airbnb House Fire At the Bohemian Bungalow OBX

  • On 6/30/21 a guest left a grill unattended resulting in a significant fire loss rendering the new Bohemian Bungalow inhabitable (See Video of Damage in this post)
  • A pricey “Fire Investigation” funded by AirBnb could not eliminate the guest as a cause of the fire, this finding will test the company’s “$1 Million Host Guarantee” aka “AirCover
  • As of Mid May 2022, nearly a year since the fire NO PAYMENTS have been made by AirBnb or Lloyds of London to the insured. Income losses are approaching the $200,000 range!
  • Why this grill fire is different than a common minor flair up?
  • Key takeaways on AirCover and House Fires

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On June 30th 2020, the Bohemian Bungalow OBX suffered extensive fire and nearly 100% smoke damage after a grill was left unattended according to the Kill Devil Hills Fire Report.

I have to inform you, your house is on fire… was the message received by the property manager around 7:00 pm from the guest. The tenants, a couple who booked the property though AirBnB had checked into the newly acquired and upgraded Bohemian Bungalow OBX just a few short hours before the blaze.

Damage was so significant that the existing structure will be demolished and a new vacation home constructed. Insurance claims processes, including Airbnb’s Airbcover, are still ongoing as of mid 2022 nearly a whole year after the incident.

It’s a real bummer but we are happy everyone was safe.” stated, Michael Hamilton. “A lot of families missed out on a great vacation opportunity this year.

Why is this grill fire different?

It is normal and very common to have a minor or manageable grill flare up. It’s so common that fire fighters even admit their personal grill’s succumbing to a minor flare up. They were able to put out the flare up, of course.

What is different in this scenario is that by the time the tenant realized there was a grill fire, the fire had spread to and burned the hose connecting the propane tank to the gas burner fittings. This scenario is not common and would take some time occur.

The tenant operating the grill could not recall exactly how much time elapsed before he turned the grill on and returning to the grill where he found it engulfed in flames and the propane hose burnt spewing flames.

Photos & Video AirBnB House Fire Outer Banks

AirBnb House Fire Outer Banks
Smoke Damage Bohemian Bungalow OBX
Vacation Rental House Fire
AirBnb House Fire Outer Banks

Does Airbnb Cover House Fire Caused By Guests?

This is a good question, the answer is “maybe.”

Airbnb does flaunt its “AirBnb Host Guarantee” aka AirCover that can provide up to $1,000,000 in guest damages to attract in would be hosts. The idea makes sense and it aimed to provide peace of mind for homeowners. After all, Airbnb could not exist without housing inventory/.

The program is marketed as “top to bottom coverage…with average reimbursement time within 2 weeks.”

This certainly has NOT been our experience!

AirCover by AirBnb

What’s the Catch? Sounds Great!

The catch is the guest must be determined to be at fault and the claim must be within the narrow coverages that may apply.

In our Outer Banks Airbnb House Fire a pricey independenat “Fire Investigation” was funded by AirBnb, unfortunately, the investigation could not eliminate the guest as a cause of the fire.

There is a possibility that Airbnb Host Guarantee may provide damage coverage as “secondary” or “supplemental” to the owners primary insurance policy. Alternatively, the claimant may elect to pursue the AirBnb program first and seek “excess” via their primary carrier.

We did not learn of this nuance of “who should pay first” for nearly 6 months.

For our claim, AirBnb uses insurance adjustors to facilitate their claims process. Just one of the many program components; they adjust on an “ACV” or Actual Cash Value basis, which is not in favor of the claimant – as opposed to RCV or “replacement cost.”

AirBnb and the insurance company representatives they contract, like Crawford or Generali, make it a point to inform claimants that “this program is NOT insurance.” If this program is not insurance, yet is run by insurance adjustors and processes, what is it?

Other Airbnb house fire examples are online, including one in Sonoma, California and another in Austin, TX, both ended up in court.

Airbnb house fire outer banks bohemian bungalow
Kill Devil Hills Firefighters Venting Roof With Chain Saw

Will the Bohemian Bungalow Be Restored or a New Construction?

Professional building damage estimates have come in over $230,000 to bring the bungalow back to where it was pre Airbnb House Fire. That figure is above 80% of the value of the as-is structure putting into question whether or not restoring the bungalow is worth it at all. We have decided to demolish the existing structure and build a new custom Live Swell Vacation Home.

Progress of the New Bohemian Bungalow OBX

First Floor Framing.
Expected Completion: Late 2022

Key Takeaways of Our Airbnb House Fire & Airbnb’s AirCover

  • See our ONE YEAR update here….Does AirBnb Cover Fire Damage?!?! Informative Real Life Case Study
  • Become familiar with Airbnb’s AirCover Program
  • Don’t let AirBnb delay the process via gamesmanship! They Know (as long as the guest is found as a “cause”) YOU, the insured, can elect to pursue your primary insurance or Airbnb’s AirCover first!
  • Consult an attorney. AirCover is NOT insurance, it is a contract. Therefore, this program is not governed by typical insurance law. An attorney can help you get the contract benefits enforced.
  • Don’t expect a quick payout! While AirCover states “claims are typically turned around in 2 week” that has not been my experience (over 1 year)
  • Have significant reserves and access to funding for rebuilding. Without reserves and access to funding, Airbnb’s process could potentially take out 3 full rental seasons (Over $200k in income lost).
  • AirBnb’s AirCover has very restrictive requirements for reporting a claim to them. The program feels like it is designed to be burdensome to discourage program usage.
  • Consider hiring a Public Adjustor to represent your claim. There is a lot of work involved, almost full time.
  • Make sure to have good primary insurance. AirCover is not a substitute for paid coverage.

Key Takeaways While Grilling At Airbnb’s or Vacation Homes

Everyone I know loves an opportunity to grill, both on and off vacation!

Consider ONLY providing charcoal grills. The risk of a fire incident is much less!

Be Safe and Be Aware

Being “on vacation” or somewhere your not as familiar with can present some unfamiliar conditions and equipment. You may not be accustomed to the grill type, its location, cleanliness, environmental conditions (wind & aridity), location of fire extinguisher or water hose. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these.

The number one reason house fires occur is due to “cooking,” most notably the stove being left unattended. The same goes for grills. Don’t leave a grill (especially an unfamiliar grill) unattended. If you have to make it quick with frequent checks. That way a minor flare up does not turn into a full on house blaze.

National Fire Protection Agency

NFPA Grilling Safety Tips