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Security and Liability

Is my hotel liable for my personal belongings?

Most states have limits on a hotel's liability as long as the hotel follows regulations. For example, hotels must provide a safe for storing guests' valuables and inform guests that it is available. The hotel may not be responsible for missing items if a guest chooses not to use this safe.

Many hotels post notices (in the rooms or at check-in) that limit their liability to a certain dollar amount for items stored in the safe. This liability limit should be clearly posted, or the hotel may not be protected by the limit. In some states, when a hotel accepts items from a guest who has declared a stated, higher value exceeding the hotel's accepted limit, the hotel waives its protection, and you can be reimbursed for the full value if the property is lost or destroyed. Other states limit the liability to the statutory amount, even if the guest declared a higher value.

If the hotel is negligent, and property is lost or destroyed, these limits may not apply. This is because many state laws limiting hotel liability were established to protect hotels from events outside their control, such as fire, tornadoes or armed robbery. If the hotel fails to use reasonable care in protecting guests' deposited property, such as failing to lock a safe, then the hotel can be held completely liable for the value of the property.

TIP: When staying in a hotel, protect valuables by:

  • inquiring about the maximum hotel liability in the applicable state will be; and
  • checking your business liability, homeowner's, or travel insurance policies for coverage loopholes that would prevent you from recovering the full value of your possessions.

What if a hotel has a sign stating that it is not responsible for loss of property?

A hotel may display a notice stating that it is not responsible for losses, but such action is a not generally supported by states' laws. Basically, the hotel is trying to gain more protection than the state allows, which could jeopardize its protection and result in being liable for the total amount of a guest's loss.

Are hotels and motels obligated to protect their guests from fires?

The Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act was created to save lives and protect property in hotels, motels and other places of public accommodation, in part by requiring sprinklers and smoke detectors in all rooms. Through the Act, employees of the federal government traveling on business must stay in public accommodations that adhere to the safety requirements of the Act. Also, federally funded meetings and conferences cannot be held in properties that do not comply with the Act. This provides a strong financial incentive for hotels and motels to follow the Act's safety requirements.