An individual who, as a regular business, provides accommodations for guests in exchange for reasonable compensation.
An inn is defined as a place where lodgings are made available to the public for a charge, such as a hotel, motel, hostel, or guest house. A guest is a transient who receives accommodations at an inn, transiency being the major characteristic distinguishing him or her from a boarder. In order for the relationship of innkeeper and guest to be established, the parties must intend to have such a relationship. The individual accommodated must be received as a guest and must obtain accommodations in such capacity. The individual need not, however, register.
An innkeeper must accept all unobjectionable individuals offering themselves as guests, provided the innkeeper has available accommodations and the guests are willing to pay the reasonable charges. Proper grounds for a refusal to receive a proposed guest are ordinarily restricted to either lack of accommodations or the unsuitability of the guest.
It is improper and a violation of an individual's civil rights for an innkeeper to refuse accommodations on the basis of race, creed, or color. Upon assignment to a room, a guest is entitled to its exclusive occupancy for all lawful purposes, subject to the right of the innkeeper to enter the room for proper purposes, such as to assist the police in their investigation of a crime.
An innkeeper is permitted to charge a reasonable compensation only, and must ordinarily fulfill his or her entire obligation prior to being entitled to the compensation. In the event that a guest does not pay, the innkeeper has a lien on the guest's property. Such a lien ordinarily extends to all property brought by the guest to the inn and generally continues until the debt is satisfied unless the innkeeper voluntarily surrenders the goods. The innkeeper may remove a guest upon refusal to pay his or her bill but cannot, however, use excessive force.
An innkeeper has an obligation to reasonably protect guests from injury while at the inn. This duty of reasonable care mandates vigilance in protection of the guests from foreseeable risks. The innkeeper must protect guests from injury at the hands of other guests and from assaults and negligent acts of his or her own employees. The obligation to protect guests is not met merely by warning them, but must be coupled with a policing of the premises.
An innkeeper must take reasonable care regarding the safety of the guests' property and must warn guests of any hidden dangers that can be reasonably foreseen. This duty includes making inspections to ascertain that the premises are safe. The innkeeper is liable for any injuries arising from his or her failure to comply with fire regulations. Reasonably safe means of ingress and egress must be provided.
An innkeeper is required to use reasonable care to keep the hallways, passageways, and stairways well lighted and free from obstructions or hazards. An innkeeper who furnishes appliances or furniture for the convenience of guests must maintain them in a reasonably safe condition. Similar duties are required in connection with plumbing apparatus and swimming pools.
Reasonable care must be exercised by an innkeeper in the operation and maintenance of an elevator, which means that the elevator must be inspected and repaired to keep it in safe condition. The obligation to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition applies to windows and screens that are defective or insecurely fastened. Failure to have protective window grills or to guard air shafts located on a roof does not, however, necessarily constitute negligence.
The prevalent common law view makes an innkeeper liable as an insurer for all personal property brought by the guest to the inn that is lost through the innkeeper's fault. There is no liability, however, if the guest assumes the entire and exclusive care, control, and possession of his or her property. State laws have been enacted with respect to the liability of innkeepers for the property of their guests. Generally the statutes modify the common law by limiting the innkeeper's liability to a specified amount and by requiring deposit of valuables. Guests must have notice of any limitations of the innkeeper's liability.