Know Your Rights

The entire United States is covered by the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by privately owned places of public accommodation

So, no matter where you live, you cannot deny service to someone because of his or her race, color, religion, national origin or disability

To avoid being arbitrary, there must be a reason for refusing service and you must be consistent. There could be a dress code to maintain a sense of decorum, or fire code restrictions on how many people can be in your place of business at one time, or a policy related to the health and safety of your customers and employees. But you can’t just randomly refuse service to someone because you don’t like the way they look or dress.

Under common law, certain private entities that provide services to the public are required to serve the public without discriminating and can only refuse to provide services on reasonable grounds.

Accordingly, under common law, hotels must accept guests unless there is a reasonable or non-arbitrary reason for rejecting a guest. 

Reasonableness depends upon the individual circumstances, but in the context of a hotel, it would be reasonable to refuse to rent a room to a guest who is engaging in bad behavior or illicit activities or whose admission would somehow interfere with the operation of the hotel or guest safety.

Accordingly, whether a hotel can justify barring a guest from future stays will involve the subjective judgment of the hotel staff and when subjective judgment is involved, reasonable minds may differ and the guest may be able to assert a claim.

If a guest is that disruptive, then the hotel should carefully document all of the guest’s complaints and the hotel’s attempts to resolve them.  The more details the better.  The hotel should also make note of the guest’s behavior and treatment of hotel staff, and whether the guest attempted to involve other guests in his or her drama. 

An innkeeper may lawfully refuse to entertain objectionable characters calculated to injure his business or guests in a hazardous, uncomfortable or dangerous situation. The innkeeper need not accept anyone as a guest who is calculated to and will injure his/her businessState v. Steele, 106 N.C. 766 (N.C. 1890). Note that this does not include the right to discriminate based on race, religion, ethnicity, etc. regardless of whether it would injure the business of the innkeeper.

Can I legally share guest information? Legally, yes there is no such thing as hotelguest confidentiality that is protected by law. However, it is best practice to state in your privacy policy states you are doing so and in a non-discriminatory way. If your hotel is associated  with a franchise then a privacy policy has already been created for your property. A guest admitted to an inn can be removed thereafter by the innkeeper for: United States v. Allen, 106 F.3d 695, 699 (6th Cir. Ky. 1997).

  • refusal to pay his bill;
  • fraud;
  • becoming obnoxious to the other guests by his/her own fault;
  • becoming a person of general bad reputation; or
  • behaving in a disorderly manner
  • illicit activities

The hotel must then act to take back possession of the room, which ends the guest’s expectation of privacy.  The Fourth Amendment continues to protect a guest until the hotel staff takes action to commence eviction.  The following actions have been identified as sufficient to constitute the commencement of eviction, and thus the extinguishment of Fourth Amendment protections:

  • Locking the guest out of his room, as long as it is for the purpose of eviction.
  • Contacting the police for their assistance in physically evicting the defendant.

Removal of the guest’s belongings from the room, a note left on the door informing the guest that he/ she had been evicted, the hotel staff telling the guest that he/she was evicted, or some combination of the above

In order to create and follow an eviction policy that promotes compliance with the Fourth Amendment, a hotel should identify behaviors that justify eviction.  This requires consultation of the law, including any statutes that govern hotel policies.  The hotel should then train its staff to recognize and respond to behavior that triggers eviction.  A hotel should also provide guests with its eviction policy or communicate in some way the types of behavior that could trigger an eviction.  Finally, in the event of an eviction, the hotel must take steps to communicate to the guest that he or she is being evicted.

The overwhelming majority of cases against hotels involve unsafe conditions and obnoxious guests who are disturbing other guests. In the former, a guest or guest of a guest is injured by some condition on the premises, often in the parking lot, and the hotel’s insurance company normally becomes involved. In the latter, the inn keeper is compelled to take corrective steps to preserve the peace which leads to altercations and later litigation.

The inn keeper has little choice about becoming involved if a guest is behaving in an obnoxious manner such as to alienate other guests or even cause a disturbance between guests. The wise innkeeper, however, will not risk the danger to employees inherent in confrontation with intoxicated or aggressive guests but simply utilize local police as necessary. Just because you may have the right to remove the guest does not mean that such action on your own is the best decision. Guest Ban should be used at your discretion as tool to identify guest issues to create a safer environment for your guest and staff.

It is vital for the wise hotel keeper to make sure that the premises are as “crime proof” as possible. Relatively recent cases have held hotel keepers liable for unsafe conditions in parking lots when entrance doors have been broken or lights in the parking lot were insufficient. One client explained it well. “If I wouldn’t want my daughter to spend the night there safely, then I don’t want to run the hotel. I am doing this not just for any guest, but for the most helpless guest and that’s my job.