Hotels have an affirmative duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety and security of their patrons. Therefore, they must protect their guests and employees from foreseeable criminal acts of third parties. In most states, a greater burden of protection is placed upon hotels than upon landlords and other business owners. However, the law in this area varies greatly from state to state. Most states hold that hotels are not liable for third-party crimes unless at fault (negligent) in reasonably protecting guests from foreseeable harm.
For example, numerous court decisions nationwide have found hotels liable for failing to provide adequate locks on doors and windows. While the lodging industry does not recognize an official “standard of security,” there are several minimum safety and security measures that indicate compliance with “standard practices,” and have in fact been used to establish legal precedent. These would include deadbolt locks, viewing devices (peepholes) on room doors, chain locks, communication devices (telephones to enable emergency calls for assistance), and track bars for sliding glass doors. Closed circuit television has been found to be fundamental to reasonable security in facilities with several entrances, high-risk parking lots, or remote locations.
It is fair to say that the ultimate test in establishing hotel liability is to ask whether the hotel had taken reasonable steps to prevent certain crimes, in light of the relevant facts and circumstances surrounding the particular incident. Often, the hotel is simply the location of a random crime. Other times, it is the preferred location for a particular type of crime, thereby enhancing the probability of its recurrence, and raising questions of potential liability.
Generally, the same or similar assessment of hotel security will be appropriate for crimes commit-ted by third parties as for those committed by other guests or patrons. Ultimately, there must be fault on the part of the hotel in failing to prevent harm caused by foreseeable risks. The probability of occurrence of a particular crime or type of crime, as well as the level of care required from the hotel, are questions of fact which may vary from case to case.