Theft from Your Hotel Room: Who’s Liable?

Innkeepers Laws

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.)

Hotel liability is even limited for theft from the in-room safe. Your hotel booking documents should contain terms and conditions that detail what the hotel will and will not cover in terms of theft.

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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.

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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?

2 comments on “Theft from Your Hotel Room: Who’s Liable?

  1. Avatar for Mary Mock mmock
    Jeremy spooner on

    Yes i have i stayed st motel 6 in greenbay Wisconsin and i left for a day cause my brother died and when i came back all of my belongings was stolen out of my room including my prescriptions which caused me to withdraw and end up in a hospital with a iv in my arm so when i got better i called brown county police and they told me to list everything that was tooken and i also called their corporate office which they said i will be reimbursed for everything that was tooken. Every finger pointed to there manager taking my belongings so as i was waiting for my reimbursement my dad died and i missed my brother and his funeral cause everything was tooken from my room very expensive things that another one of there workers agreed that i had alot of things with me. Then i found out my i.d and debit cards was also tooken and someone was booking hotels from motel 6 and making comments like they was me, and the thing about that is the days the was booking the hotels and making comments online like it was me i was in jail for not having any identification on me so there’s no way i could have did that and the day it happened was the same day my dad died and on my brother and dad funeral which hurt me resl bad i lost 25 pounds in 8 days. So when i got out of jail i fell out of front of my doctors office and he called the ambulance for me. In the thing about my story is i called to let the hotel know i was on my way back and the manager was yelling at me over the phone telling me i found pills in your room and i told her they were my prescriptions which came back to be true, i got put out of my house cause my cards was gone i was stranded in greenbay Wisconsin and had to sleep on the streets and this incident tore my whole life apart and im mentally messed up bad and this all happened April 28 2020 same day my brother died from a heart attack through may 5th 2020 the dsy my dad died now im taking anxiety prescription pills that my doctor recently put me on and motel 6 corporate office emailed me telling me that motel 6 is not part of thry chain so ghry can’t reimbursement me for nothing and im still waiting on the police to respond back to me cause and they did email me about victim belongings beening tooken this is the worst i ever been in my life im having nightmares i can’t sleep for long periods, i can’t stop shaking my leg is numb so my doctor got me going to a mri appointment to see what’s going on i been to the er about 6 times i lost everything they took everything from me i was self employed doing construction and the last thing i did for thst is file my 2019 taxes and now I’m scared to leave my mom house so i stay in a room she let me move in this wrecked my life and i don’t even stay in greenbay Wisconsin i stay in Milwaukee Wisconsin, so sleeping outside with the animals especially where i don’t know anyone at i felt like i was going to die nonstop crying and i couldn’t even make it home or call anyone cause .y phone was stolen to so i reslly need some help to get justice my doctor even tells me that i need a lawyer.


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