centres on the premise that hotel industry is susceptible to crimes and hotels need to provide adequate security measures including security boxes for the safe-custody of guests' valuables. The hotels shall not be liable for any loss if any guest neglects to deliver the valuables to be deposited in the security box, unless the keeper of the hotel causes the loss due to the fault or negligence on his/her part. The paper attempts to verify the thesis by analysing the different statues available in this regard, and the measures taken/to be taken by hotels for the security of guests' valuables.
Hotel is essentially a service industry and security is of prime importance for the success of this industry. Security not only concerned the guests it includes the safety of the valuables and other belongings that a guest is likely to carry during his travel. Hoteliers are responsible for the protection of property and as they are for the security of their guests. Though the liability of the hotel is often limited, the primary responsibility being on the guests themselves, hotels need to take care of certain essential security system and also provide safe locking facility, as a part of their other services. This is even mandated by statutes in several states.
Hotels are susceptible to criminal activity, being public places and a hotel with poor security systems raise a high risk of crime to its guests. Exposure to crime not only intimidates the guests, it adversely affects the reputation and goodwill of the hotel and in turn the business itself. "In customer interviews and surveys, security is now a top priority. Fifteen years ago, it wasn't even one of their concerns." (Cited by Etheridge, 2003) Thus security is an indispensable investment and not an optional expenditure.
Before going on to study the susceptibility of hotels to crime, the legal requirements of security and safe-keeping of guests' valuables and the various security measures and systems taken by different hotelkeepers for the safekeeping of guests' valuables, the definitions of the different terms used repetitively, and pertinent to the premise of the paper shall be useful. For the purpose of this paper, the definitions provided in Statute 486K of the 'Consumer Action and Information Center of Hawaii'1is applied and is described as below:
Guest" means a person who is registered at the hotel and to whom a bedroom is assigned. The term "guest" shall include not only the guest, but also the members of the guest's family who accompany the guest.
Hotel/Hotel-condo" means an establishment consisting of any building or structure used primarily for the business of providing for consideration transient accommodation lodging facilities and that furnishes, as part of its routine operations, one or more customary lodging services, other than living accommodations and the use of furniture and fixtures, including, but not limited to, restaurant facilities, or room attendant, bell, telephone switchboard, laundering, or concierge services, and is subject to the transient accommodations tax.
Keeper" includes any person, firm, or corporation actually operating a hotel.
Security box" means any metal or alloy box, used in a hotel for the safekeeping of any valuables, which may be securely locked with a locking mechanism that meets or exceeds Underwriters Laboratories standards and which shall be secured in a manner which precludes its removal from the room. (See Exhibit 1 in Appendix)
Valuables" includes money, bank notes, bonds, precious stones, jewellery, ornaments, watches, securities, transportation tickets, photographic cameras, checks, drafts, and other negotiable instruments, business papers, documents, and other papers, and other articles of value.
The Susceptibility of Crimes and its Prevention in Hotels
Criminal jurisprudence says crime can occur to any one at any time in any place. Only that, the elements of crime - intent, opportunity and the offender -- must be present simultaneously. Considered in that light, hotels are susceptible to crime as any other place. However, being public places with high turnover of the rich and the affluent class they are more susceptible to criminal activity. Also, globalisation and liberal world trade and the burgeoning tourism industry bring a good proportion of the world's affluent class to hotels for both business and entertainment purposes. And in all likeliness these people carry valuables with them either in the form of cash or checks, jewels, valuable documents etc. Most of these guests being outsiders, who rarely make repeat visits, they are often the targets of the local burglary groups as a part of the organized crime, leave alone the unorganised criminal activity centred on hotels.
Within hotels crime occurs in both public and private areas. As crime prevention measures hotels need to assess the risk of crime in both public and private areas and appropriate preventive measures to check the onslaught of criminals and also to protect the guest and his property from criminal loss. Hotels need to assess the risks thoroughly and put a complete security system in place. As the risks of criminal attack against person and property is higher in non-public areas like guests' rooms and corridors as compared to public areas, the hotelkeepers need to ensure enhanced security measures, particularly in these areas.
Safe-keeping of Guests' Valuables- Legal Implications
In many states, the law recognises the liability of hotels for the safe custody of guests' valuables and requires hotels to provide a safe or security box for safekeeping the valuables of the guests staying in hotel, and requires them to make the provision known to guests by placing a notice in the room or rooms occupied by the guest in a prominent manner which would have information relating to for valuables of the guests to be safely deposited a safe or vault is provided.
Section 4 of Statute 486K 'Consumer Action and Information Center of Hawaii' for Hotels specify the following for the Safe or security box for valuables and provides the limitation of liability for deposited valuables as:
a) If the keeper of any hotel provides a safe or vault in its office thereof, for the safekeeping of any valuables belonging to the guests of the hotel, and prominently posts a notice in the room or rooms occupied by the guest stating that a safe or vault is provided in which valuables may be deposited and if any guest neglects to deliver valuables to the person in charge of the safe or vault, the keeper of the hotel shall not be liable in any sum for any loss of valuables sustained by the guest by theft or otherwise unless the loss is due to the negligence or fault of the keeper of the hotel.
A b) If the keeper of a hotel provides a security box in the room of any guest and prominently posts a notice stating that a security box is provided in which valuables may be deposited and explains the liability for losses there from, the keeper of the hotel shall not be liable in any sum for any loss sustained by the guest unless the loss is due to the negligence or fault of the keeper of the hotel."
The Pennsylvania statute for Hotel and Lodging Houses (Title 37) acknowledges the safe keeping of guests' valuables, however, covers the non-liability for valuables not deposited in safe in section P.S. 61 and states:".... shall be liable for the loss or injury suffered by any guest, unless such guest has offered to deliver the same to such innkeeper or hotelkeeper, for custody in such metal safe or vault, and such innkeeper or hotelkeeper has omitted or refused to take it and deposit it in such safe or vault for custody, and to give such guest a receipt therefor: Provided, however, That the keeper of any inn or hotel shall not be obliged to receive from any one guest, for deposit in such safe or vault, any property hereinbefore described exceeding a total value of three hundred dollars, and shall not be liable for any excess of such property, whether received or not."
The Limiting Liability Statutes section of the Outline and Notes on Hospitality Law and Ethics2 by Prof Fisher also acknowledge the limited liability of hotels and the mandatory provisions on hotels for the safekeeping of guests' valuables, with particular reference to State of Vermont. It reads thus: "In order to qualify for limited liability hotels generally must meet the following conditions:
Must be a "proper" safe
Must be available when guests want to deposit their valuables
Post notices announcing the availability of the safes
Hotels must strictly comply with the posting requirements
Notices must be conspicuous (i.e., a reasonable person would notice it)
Notices generally must be posted in several locations
Post notices announcing that the hotel's liability is limited
Generally the following property must be deposited in the safe: money, jewels, ornaments, precious stones bank notes, bonds, negotiable securities
In Vermont: ceiling is $300 for personal property
Exception - guest provides a statement of value over $300 AND the hotel acknowledges the property's value" (Fisher, 2002)