A hotel is defined as a house held out to the public by the proprietor as a place where transient persons will be received and entertained as guests for compensation. In other words, it is an establishment that provides lodging and usually meals and other services for travelers and other paying guests. An inn differs from a hotel in that the inn not only offers accommodations to persons, but stabling and feed for their horses and safe keeping for their baggage and impedimenta[i]. In process of time inn and hotel became synonymous[ii].
Generally, an innkeeper is under a duty to receive all persons who offer themselves as guests. The relation of innkeeper and guest is a mutual contractual one, and the existence of intention by both parties is an essential element[iii]. A guest is a transient person who resorts to and is received at an inn for the purpose of obtaining the accommodation which it proposes to afford. But it is essential that a party must be a transient and if s/he is transient s/he may become a guest. It is laid down as one of the distinctive features of the relation that a guest is received under an implied contract[iv].
The relation of innkeeper and guest is a mutual contractual one, and the existence of intention by both parties is an essential element. It is an exceptional case where that requisite is not clearly established, usually by implication. Generally, if one holds himself/herself out to the public as an innkeeper, and is accustomed to receive all who apply and a transient goes to the house to procure accommodation and receives entertainment, the relationship is created. But it is not necessarily the result. It may require circumstances of more evidentiary value where the matter of mutual rights and obligations concerns the occupancy of a room and personal injuries are sustained[v].
A guest may be accepted at a hotel, without registration, by the mere delivery to him/her of the key to a room by the clerk. It is not mandatory that a guest must sign a hotel register as the evidence of the contract between the parties. Such contracts are mere matters of oral consent, and are legal without further formality[vi].
It is to be noted that, if a person is wrongfully ejected from a restaurant, then s/he is entitled to recover damages for injury to his/her feelings as a result of the humiliation[vii]. However, an innkeeper is not under obligation to receive as a guest everyone who applies. S/he has the right to reject to expel persons whom s/he reasonably deems objectionable. A person becomes a guest only if s/he is received to be treated as a guest and the intention to become such must be communicated to the innkeeper or his/her agent.
However, a mere guest of the registered occupant of a room at a hotel, who shares such room with its occupant without the knowledge or consent of the hotel management, will not be treated as a guest of the hotel. It is to be noted that the rights of hotel guests are not assignable or transferable. Therefore, if a registered guest, without permission from anyone representing the hotel, transferred a room to another person, that person will not have any right to its possession[viii].
However, it is to be noted that a person who is not a guest and has no intention of becoming a guest will not have the legal right to enter or remain in a hotel against the will of the innkeeper. Such a person has a duty to leave peacefully when requested.
[i] Independence v. Richardson, 117 Kan. 656 (Kan. 1925).
[ii] Langford v. Vandaveer, 254 S.W.2d 498 (Ky. 1953).
[iv] Pettit v. Thomas, 103 Ark. 593 (Ark. 1912).
[v] Langford v. Vandaveer, 254 S.W.2d 498 (Ky. 1953).
[vi] Moody v. Kenny, 153 La. 1007 (La. 1923).
[vii] Morningstar v. Lafayette Hotel Co., 211 N.Y. 465 (N.Y. 1914).
[viii] Langford v. Vandaveer, 254 S.W.2d 498 (Ky. 1953).