In Texas, a lease of land grants the lessee an actual estate in the real property made up of the specific rights granted. Depending on the type of rights granted to a lessee, the express terms of the grant may be affected by numerous state laws, including statutes, ordinances, regulations, and court decisions. For example, a residential lessee has certain statutory rights which are more particularly set forth in Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code.
However, a guest of a hotel or inn is not afforded the same rights and estates which are created in a lease, regardless of the type. In Texas, the guest of a hotel or innkeeper is only granted a privilege or authority to use the property for a short period of time and in accordance with the rules and regulations set forth by the hotel or innkeeper. The guest holds a “license” as opposed to a “lease” and is not entitled to exclusive possession of the areas in which the guest is allowed to conduct its activities. A license does not create an interest in the land or the buildings in favor of the guest, but only allows the guest the right of use.
Aside from the aforementioned distinction, a hotel or innkeeper typically remains responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the property, has a right to enter the licensed areas by way of a key or keys, and may also reside on the property. As previously stated, the license granted to the guest is usually for a short period of time. No exclusive possession is granted to the guest, and the hotel or innkeeper is not required to initiate an action for forcible detainer to remove the guest from the property. Section 92.152(a)(1) of the Texas Property Code specifically excepts the renting of a room in a hotel, motel, inn or similar transient housing from the laws governing the leasing of real property for residential purposes.
While statutes governing residential leasing are plentiful in Texas, those relating to the renting of a hotel or motel room are fairly scarce. Some of those laws are codified at Chapter 2155 of the Texas Occupations Code. Chapter 2155 regulates room rate information that must be supplied by the hotel or innkeeper (Section 2155.001); liability for valuables not stored in hotel vault (Section 2155.052); non-liability for holding baggage left by a guest (Section 2155.053); and notification of hotel’s firearms policy (Section 2155.103). Other miscellaneous statutes which apply to hotels and innkeepers are:
— Section 341.066 of the Texas Health & Safety Code (safe drinking water; sewage disposal; sanitation; and safety of gas stoves used for heating);
— Section 792.002 of the Texas Health & Safety Code (smoke detectors);
— Section 41.0025 of the Texas Family Code (liability of parents for damage or destruction to a hotel room by child); and
— Section 55.251 of the Texas Utilities Code (limiting certain telephone calls to $.50).
Unless such contain 5 or less rooms for rent and is occupied by the proprietor as his or her residence, hotels and inns are places of public accommodation which must comply with Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. Section 12181 et seq.).
Outside of these few state and federal laws, the operation of hotels and inns are regulated by the local ordinances of the particular municipalities in which they operate. Where a hotel or inn is not regulated by local ordinance, the Texas Department of State Health Services through its Public Health Sanitation Program will, as resources and time allow, inspect and investigate complaints about hotels, motels, inns, RV parks, and campgrounds.
- Scott Alagood is board certified in Commercial and Residential Real Estate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and can be reached at [email protected] or www.dentonlaw.com.