Under common law, an innkeeper or hotelier was liable for loss or damage to guest’s property for the full value, unless the loss was caused by an act of nature (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.), civil unrest, or the fault of the guest…each state has modified the common law by enacting statutes that limit the hotel’s liability… ordinarily limited to a specific figure, anywhere from $250 to $5,000.
Hotels typically post conspicuous notices indicating that valuables worth more than a certain amount (e.g., $250 or $500) must be deposited in the hotel safe in order to be covered for any loss. (Room safes are generally recommended only if they contain digital keypads, and the guest assumes all responsibility for getting into the safe and keeping the combination confidential.)
Two states have been randomly selected to provide examples of these statutes:
- The Rhode Island statute states that if the hotel provides a safe for depositing money, jewelry, watches, and the like, and notifies guests by posting a conspicuous notice to that effect, and guests fail to deposit their valuables in the safe, the hotel is not liable for any loss to the valuables. It goes on to add that the hotel is not obligated to accept property for safekeeping that exceeds $500 in value. If a guest deposits property with a value exceeding $500 in the safe, the hotel is not responsible for loss to this property for more than $500, unless there is a special written agreement with the hotel for a greater amount.
- The New Mexico statute states that the hotel is liable to its guests for loss of their property that is caused by the theft or negligence of the hotel or its staff, up to a limit of $1,000. However, if the hotel provides a suitable safe for safekeeping of money, jewelry, or other valuables, and notifies guests by posting a printed notice in hotel rooms, and guests fail to deposit their valuables in the safe, the hotel will not be liable.