How to protect yourself in the sharing economy for $15 a month

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How to protect yourself in the sharing economy for $15 a month

You might not even know you’re taking part in the sharing economy until someone points it out to you. "Sharing economy" is a catch-all term for sites and apps like Uber, TaskRabbit, AirBnB, and others that provide peer-to-peer marketplaces and services.

TaskRabbit, for example, will let you hire someone to help you move or clean your apartment. These people, called taskers, aren’t employees of TaskRabbit, however - they’re people who make a living by doing odd jobs sourced online. You can use the sharing economy to make a few extra bucks, too. AirBnB lets you rent out an extra room. It’s essentially a peer-to-peer hotel.

If you’re already a part of the sharing economy, you might have been exposed to some unknown risks. What happens, for example, if a tasker injuries herself in your apartment during a job? Or if an AirBnB guest steals your TV? You may already know that renters insurance covers burglaries, fires, and other major disasters, but the sharing economy introduces some "what if" questions to the equation. Fortunately, renters insurance covers a lot of those scenarios too. And the best part? The average renters insurance policy only costs about $15 a month.

We put together answers to some of the most burning what if questions with respect to risk and the sharing economy. Remember: if you’re taking part in the sharing economy and you don’t know if something is covered, check with your insurance company and ask your what ifs. And if you have any that we didn’t ask, please report back in the comments below.

AirBnB

What if my guest is injured in my apartment?

If your guest injuries him or herself as a result of negligence on your part, your renters insurance will cover it. Other injuries will be covered up to the limit in your policy’s medical payment section.

What if my guest steals some of my belongings?

If your guest steals items from your apartment, it is not covered by your renters insurance. Policies do not cover property in an apartment regularly rented to someone other than the insured.

What if my apartment is burglarized and some of my guest’s belongings are stolen?

If a burglar steals items from a guest while they’re in your apartment, replacement of those belongings is not covered under renters insurance. Policies do not cover property in an apartment regularly rented to someone other than the insured.

What if my guest uses my WiFi router to pirate a bunch of movies and I’m sued for copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement is not considered a property damage as defined in a renters insurance policy and will not be covered regardless of who committed it.

What if I don’t have renters insurance?

AirBnB also offers its own "Host Guarantee" through Lloyd’s of London, which will reimburse hosts for damages to their apartment up to $1,000,000. However, New York State lawmakers have called this guarantee into question. According to the lawmakers, the host guarantee only covers damages to property owned or legally controlled by the host, a requirement that doesn’t cover the majority of New York City hosts who are not legally allowed to provide short-term rentals.

AirBnB does not offer any form of liability insurance. So while you may be covered if a guest destroys your living room, you won’t be covered if your living room destroys your guest. In this situation, renters insurance can have a huge impact, as it will cover medical bills. AirBnB suggests confirming with your insurance provider that your activity with AirBnB is covered under your policy.

TaskRabbit

What if I hire someone from TaskRabbit to clean my home and they injure themselves while cleaning?

If the tasker injuries him or herself as a result of negligence on your part, your renters insurance will cover it. Other injuries will be covered up to the limit in your policy’s medical payment section.

What if I take a moving or housecleaning job on TaskRabbit and accidentally injure someone while on a job?

If you injure someone while performing a "task," it will not be covered. The policy does not provide bodily injury coverage while conducting a business activity.

What if I hire someone to walk my dog while I’m away for the weekend and the dog bites someone at the park?

If your dog bites someone at the park, the policy will cover it assuming there was negligence on the part of the dog handler. This will vary state by state according to leash laws.

What if I don’t have renters insurance?

TaskRabbit has a similar guarantee to AirBnB, in that it protects both its clients and taskers up to $1,000,000 in the case of losses or damages. TaskRabbit will cover both damages to a client’s home and medical injuries sustained by a client, tasker, or third-party. In both cases, the tasker must be found to be negligent in the incident for TaskRabbit to cover it.

If a tasker is injured and the client is found negligent, the client’s renters insurance policy will cover the tasker’s medical bill. If you plan on letting a tasker into your home, we suggest getting a renters insurance policy.

Uber / Lyft

What if I drive a car for Uber or Lyft and a passenger steals my backpack or phone from the car?

All theft of personal belongings from your car are covered under the theft portion of your policy.

What if I don’t have renters insurance?

You’re out of luck - car insurance will not cover theft of any item that be easily removed from the car (CDs, phone, aftermarket stereo, etc.). Renters and homeowners insurance are the only ways to cover these items.

If you're an Uber, Lyft, or Sidecar driver, you should read our article about the insurance secret that ridesharing companies don't want you to know.

Freelancing equipment

What if a laptop that I use 50% of the time for personal purposes and 50% for freelance writing work gets stolen from my apartment?

Most policies will limit the amount paid out for any computer if its used at any time for business purposes. One company we contacted would pay out $2,500 max for said laptop. Most other insurance companies also have similar limits in place.

What if it was stolen from a Starbucks?

That same company will lower its payout to $250 if said laptop is stolen from an off-site location. Most other insurance companies also lower payouts for business electronics stolen from off-site locations.

What if I accidentally lose it (left it in a taxi, on the train, etc.)?

Most insurance companies told us that this situation would require an investigation, but that if it was ruled to be lost or misplaced, rather than stolen, then they would not provide any coverage.

What if I was freelancing on site for a business and that laptop or my phone was stolen from that office space?

If your laptop is stolen from an off-site location, it would be covered under the theft portion of your policy. Payout would again be limited if the laptop is used for business purposes in any way. The same limitations apply to your phone.

What if I don’t have renters insurance?

Some manufacturers, stores, or credit cards may provide extended warranties to computers that have been damaged or need repairs. You should always be aware of what’s covered and for how long.

In the case of a purely personal computer, we strongly suggest getting renters insurance to cover not only the computer, but all of your personal belongings.

If you are a freelancer using a computer for business purposes, we suggest purchasing additional riders to your renters insurance policy that covers home-business related claims.

Have a question we didn’t ask?

If you have more renters insurance questions relating to the sharing economy, send them our way or leave them in the comments. If you already have renters insurance, you can also contact your insurance company to check on how your policy deals with specific scenarios.

Photo by: Effie Yang