In ancient Babylon, around 1700 B.C., Hammurabi ordered death for innkeepers whose negligence caused inconvenience or injury to travelers.
Most U.S. states today have “innkeepers laws”, largely based on English common law dating to the 1700s. Innkeepers laws also limit hotels’ liability in situations such as thefts from rooms, damage to cars in parking facilities and injuries to guests.
In California, for example, a hotel is liable for losses to personal property not to exceed the sum of one thousand dollars ($1,000) in the aggregate. (See the Innkeeper Statute at Civil Code sections 1859 through 1867.)
While guests may suspect the housekeeping staff, hotels with electronic keys can use a device to read the memory of the keycard lock to review whether and when any housekeeper’s keys have been used. Thieves have also hacked hotels’ electronic door locks.
Does Travel Insurance Cover Theft from Hotel Rooms?
First, hotels generally do not carry insurance policies that would cover theft of guests’ personal belongings. After all, hotels don’t know and don’t want to ask all of their guests to itemize valuable belongings. It’s one reason travelers should always consider purchasing their own travel insurance policy.
Almost all travel insurance policies come with personal baggage and valuables cover. For people who are just traveling with the usual basics like camera, cell phone, and laptop, basic cover should suffice if anything gets lost, damaged, or stolen. If you are traveling with particularly valuable items, you should read the policy terms to see how much single items are insured up to, and make sure it covers the price of what you paid for the item.
If you do need to make a claim for a valuable item stolen from your hotel room, have proof of purchase ready for the travel insurance company. If you don’t have receipts, take photos of the items with the serial number clearly visible before you travel.
Tips for Keeping Valuables Safe in Your Hotel Room
Ask if your room has a safe. If not, ask if the front desk place your valuable items into another safe. Most hotels maintain a safe near the front desk.
No room safe? Place valuables in your suitcase and lock it. You may even be able to lock your suitcase to furniture in the room.
Is your laptop the most valuable item in your hotel room? You can use a laptop cable lock to lock it to something that can’t be moved.
Does the hotel have a policy that forbids housekeeping from letting someone into their room?
Ask if the hallways have security cameras.
Avoid rooms on the ground floor. Consider hanging a Do Not Disturb Sign on your door, especially if you do not need your room cleaned.
Have you ever had something stolen from your hotel room? How did your hotel handle it?