At common law, an innkeeper entitled to a lien was one who held out his/her place as one for the entertainment of all respectable transient persons who chose to come to him. However, the statutory lien is not confined to transients, although the word hotel is substantially restricted to the common-law definition of an inn.
A hotel keeper has a lien upon the baggage of any guest which may be in his/her hotel[i]. But, to entitle a person to assert an innkeeper’s lien, s/he must receive property as the goods of a guest[ii].
Baggage includes all property which is in any hotel belonging to or under the control of any guest. The lien is upon baggage of any guest which may be in the hotel. It is the property of the guest, or under his/her control in the hotel, and not such property as the guest does not take there, that may be subjected to a hotel-keeper’s lien[iii].
However, an automobile kept by the occupant of an apartment house in a garage adjacent to the apartment is not baggage.
The hotel keeper may take and retain possession of all baggage and may enforce his/her claim by an ordinary action[iv]. The baggage is subject to attachment and execution for the reasonable charges of the hotel keeper against the guest, and for the costs of enforcing the lien thereon.
If the hotel keeper does not proceed by an ordinary action s/he can retain the baggage upon which s/he has a lien for a specified period, at the expiration of which time, if such lien is not satisfied, s/he may sell such baggage.
The lien of an innkeeper extends to all the property brought by the guest to the inn and received by the innkeeper. The lien extends to all baggage and wearing apparel, furniture, and other personal property brought within the protection of the innkeeper.
Similarly, the law gives to any innkeeper a lien whether the goods are the property of the traveler or the property of third parties from whom it has been hired or even fraudulently taken or stolen, if the innkeeper has no notice of the wrong and acts honestly[v].
In order to enforce the lien, a motel, hotel, inn, furnished apartment house, boardinghouse, and lodging house keeper has the right to enter peaceably the premises used by his/her guest in such premises without liability to such guest for conversion, trespass, or forcible entry[vi].
The enforcement of lien rights is not contrary to public policy. A statute providing for a lien to secure payment for services rendered does not violate substantive due process[vii].
Under some jurisdictions lien rights on baggage and effects kept at a lodging house arise only when a special agreement has been made between the keeper of any lodging house and any person lodging at such house, regarding the price of such lodging[viii]. No state action requires the parties to enter into a bargain or restrict them in negotiating the terms of any agreement.
There is a substantial difference between a lodger and a tenant. The distinction between a lodger and a tenant is that the goods of the lodger are subject to a lien for unpaid rent, while those of a tenant are not[ix].
The lien in favor of a boarding-house keeper consists in his/her right to retain possession of the chattels in opposition to the title of the guest until the charge respecting them is paid. The detention of the property of the guest by the boarding-house keeper is necessary to hold the lien, and if the latter parts with his/her possession of it, the lien is lost, and s/he can not afterwards retake the property[x].
[i] Cedar Rapids Inv. Co. v. Commodore Hotel Co., 205 Iowa 736 (Iowa 1928).
[ii] Singer Mfg. Co. v. Miller, 52 Minn. 516 (Minn. 1893).
[iii] Cedar Rapids Inv. Co. v. Commodore Hotel Co., 205 Iowa 736 (Iowa 1928).
[iv] M. & M. Hotel Co. v. Nichols, 32 N.E.2d 463 (Ohio Ct. App., Hamilton County 1935).
[vi] Klim v. Jones, 315 F. Supp. 109, 111 (N.D. Cal. 1970).
[vii] Kerrigan v. Boucher, 326 F. Supp. 647 (D. Conn. 1971).
[ix] Mathews v. Livingston, 86 Conn. 263 (Conn. 1912).
[x] Brown v. Harmon, 59 Ga. App. 373 (Ga. Ct. App. 1939).