Industry Update
Opinion Article27 November 2017

Innkeepers Law – Should Vacation Rentals be Included?

“The Definitive Study of Vacation Rentals” Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2iILtcg

By Richard B. Evans, President of Revenue Report Card LLC & Author of “the Definitive Study of Vacation Rentals”

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Evans

Allow me to begin this article with a true story.

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In 1994 I took over a hotel as General Manager and immediately was called upon to attend a jury trial where a jewelry designer was suing the hotel because of a $500,000 jewelry theft from his room.

Without going into details of the case, the suit became a “he said, she said” battle of whether “Innkeepers Law” was posted on the back of the entrance door. The jury found the hotel to be 30% negligent.

We proved that Innkeepers Law was on the back of the door (despite that the plaintiff swore it wasn’t) and the reward was $300 ($1,000 x 30%) instead of $150,000 ($500,000 x 30%).

NOTE: “Public lodging facilities” cannot be found liable, beyond $1,000, for cash or valuables stolen from a “room” if Innkeepers Law is posted in a conspicuous place.

Innkeepers Law also….

  • Provides legal mechanisms for the manager of a “public lodging facility” to set short term vacation terms without entering into formal real estate leases and allows guests to be immediately evicted without going through formal eviction proceedings.
  • Obligates “public lodging facilities” with a duty to protect their guests by providing secure safe quarters and covers other areas such as overbooking, in-room safes, and guest discrimination.

Do Vacation Rental “homes” qualify as “Public Lodging Facilities”?

After thoroughly searching the web, calling a few lawyers and making a few calls to “those in the know”; some said YES and some said MAYBE; but no one gave me a DEFINITIVE NO. The question seems to have even temporarily stumped my home state Lodging Association expert on Innkeepers Law!

Rather than go into a desecration about interpretations of the law, my discussion today is much simplifier; should Vacation Rental “homeowners” and Operators be protected?

The earliest laws regarding guest rights, dates back to ancient Babylon, around 1700 B.C., when Hammurabi ordered death for Innkeepers whose negligence caused inconvenience or injury to guests! – Thank you Travel Tips; “Innkeepers laws: What are they? By Amy Bradley-Hole
”.

Innkeepers Law today, although less severe (!), protects both guest and lodge. Why then shouldn’t it apply to Vacation Rentals?

In addition to the aforementioned, in some states the law requires that the Innkeeper (1) provide reasonable alternative accommodations in case of overbookings and (2) the duty “to protect” inclusive of the responsibility to provide safe, properly maintained quarters.

Based on that described, it would seem that these protections should be afforded to both guests of and Operators of Vacation Rental businesses.

One of the hurdles would seem to be that Vacation Rental Companies are using a formal real estate lease to engage each guest. Needless to say, hotels and bed & breakfasts don’t need to do this.

NOTE
: Did you know that if a Vacation Rental Company is renting transient units in a condo-hotel, they must post an eviction notice on the unit door and then go to court in order to evict an unruly guest! In that same condo-hotel, the hotel program can evict unruly guests legally without going to court.

Despite the ambiguity of the law, I always posted Innkeepers Law on the back of the front entrance door of Vacation Rental homes I owned. Further, I had guests (in addition to Rental Agreements) sign a Registration Card at check-in with language that supported Innkeepers Law.

My view is that it’s “better to attempt to stay safe than to be sorry later” and until a legal precedent is set, this seems to be the safe and prudent way to go.

TIP
: If a burglary occurred at one of your “homes”; at an appropriate moment, pull the police officer aside and ask him/her to include in police report that the Innkeepers Law is in place in the back of the front door.

Rhetorical Question
Why should any Vacation Rental operator be held responsible because a jewelry salesman decides he/she is NOT GOING TO:

  • place $500k of jewelry into a convention center safe provided
  • place $500k of jewelry in a front desk safe box provided,
  • place $500k of jewelry in a room safe provided

…..and instead, wrap a towel around a bag (holding $500k in jewelry!), slide it under the TV and go to dinner?

With the lack of clarity on the application of today’s Innkeeper Laws, hotels are protected, vacation rental homes are not.

Richard B. Evans

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    Richard B Evans
    President of Revenue Report Card LLC
    Phone: (954) 290 - 3567
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