What Can a Hotel Do To Evict a Guest Who Isn’t Paying Rent?

Chauvel & Glatt represents commercial landlords and hotels/lodging facilities in unlawful detainer cases.

An unlawful detainer is a legal procedure adopted in California that allows landlords to evict a tenant who is not paying rent or is otherwise in violation of the lease agreement.

Although unknown to most, the unlawful detainer process actually applies to guests of hotels/lodges refusing to vacate their rooms. Surprisingly, this does happen from time to time. While there are criminal laws in place to help hotels/lodges rid themselves of guests who refuse to pay, law enforcement will not enforce these trespass and failure-to-pay laws unless the guest is doing other criminal behavior, such as destruction to property.

Unfortunately, San Mateo County law enforcement authorities will not get involved in this thicket without court authority. So it is necessary to file an unlawful detainer case, which requires a prior three-day notice to vacate before evicting the guest/tenant.

If the guest/tenant does not leave, a complaint is filed in Superior Court to obtain an order for eviction. After the landlord or hotel manager secures a court order, law enforcement will intervene and assist in the eviction.

Additional issues may also arise in this unique area of law. For instance:

  • Can you cease all services to the room if the guest has not paid?
  • When does the guest become a “tenant” for purposes of the law?
  • Can you still evict guests who pay some, but not all, of their charges?
Hopefully, the hotel guest will voluntarily leave after a three-day notice is served. After the guest leaves, the hotel should immediately change the locks to avoid an untimely return. If the guest vacates and leaves clothes or other items in the room, the hotel/lodge should itemize the guest’s belongings and place them in a locked area. With additional court assistance, the belongings can be sold and used against the money owed to the hotel.

All actions taken in the eviction process should be documented, and an attorney should be consulted so all of the proper steps are taken to ensure the eviction.

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