Hotelkeepers' Liens

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What are Hotelkeeper’s Liens?

Hotelkeeper’s liens allow a hotelkeeper to hold personal property that a guest brought with them into the hotel, as security for payment.  Such liens are also known as “innkeeper’s liens”.  Hotelkeeper’s liens usually apply only to the “baggage” of a person, and not their automobiles. 

In most cases the hotel or innkeeper is allowed to enter the guest’s room and take possession of their baggage in relation to non-payment.  Since the baggage may be in the possession and control of the guest, many view hotelkeeper’s liens as an intrusion upon a person’s hotel privacy rights, even though such liens may be allowed under law. 

Are Hotelkeeper’s Liens Required Under Law?

Generally speaking, hotelkeeper’s liens are considered legal under the laws of most jurisdictions.  Many states will have a statute enforcing allowing the innkeeper to enforce such a lien in order to secure payment for the services they have rendered.  While they aren’t considered contrary to public policy, hotelkeeper’s liens are not required to be enforced under law.

In fact, in many jurisdictions, hotelkeeper’s liens are only enforceable if a specific agreement has been made between the guest and the innkeeper.  That is, the lien must be consensual and may sometimes only be enforceable if both parties have agreed to it (i.e., signing a provision in the hotel agreement regarding a lien).  Most states will not restrict the parties form negotiating such terms.

What Kinds of Property Can Be Subject to a Hotelkeeper’s Lien?

Basically, whatever property that the guest has brought with them into the hotel can potentially be subject to a hotelkeeper’s lien.  This includes personal items such as:

Also, it usually doesn’t matter whether the guest actually owns the property- so long as they have brought it into the hotel premises, it may become subject to a lien.  This means that property belonging to a third party that was brought into a patron’s room may be subject to the lien.  Again, cars usually aren’t subject to such liens, especially when the car is parked on the street or in an adjacent parking garage. 

Can I Challenge a Hotelkeeper’s Lien?

If you have agreed to the hotelkeeper’s lien in a written document (i.e., signed a provision in the hotel contract), it may be difficult to challenge the lien.  However, you may be able to challenge it if you can prove various circumstances, such as the hotel’s use of fraud or misrepresentation in order to get you to sign such a document. 

Also, if the state you are in doesn’t have a corresponding innkeeper’s lien statute, it may be possible to challenge the validity of the lien.  Most of the time, if the lien is not valid, you will be able to have your property returned to you; you may also be able to file for a damages award to compensate you for losses caused by the seizure of your property.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With a Hotelkeeper’s Lien?

Hotelkeepers’ liens can sometimes present very complex and challenging legal disputes.  If you are a hotel owner, you may wish to hire a lawyer if you need assistance in drafting, reviewing, or enforcing a hotelkeeper’s lien.  Or, if you were a guest of a hotel, a lawyer can help represent you in court if you need to challenge the innkeeper’s lien.  An experienced lawyer in your area can provide you with valuable legal guidance throughout the entire process.

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Last Modified: 08-22-2012 03:07 PM PDT

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