Hotel Guests, Tenants & Transient Occupants, Oh My!

Imagine this scenario, you are a hotel owner with a guest, that for one reason or another, isn’t exactly the ideal customer. Maybe you are finding that this guest habitually has one too many drinks at the lobby bar and proceeds to make other guests uncomfortable with remarks, or there are frequently noise complaints coming in for this guest’s room. Fill in the blank really, the fact remains that you want this guest out of your hotel. One huge problem though, the guest is a long stay guest who qualifies under Florida law as a tenant. When you are starting to feel like the “Hotel California” it may be time to look at your options as a Hotelier.  In Florida, there is no legal requirement for residential tenancies to be in writing.

Hotels, which are formally known as public lodging establishments, according to F.S. §509.013(4)(a), cannot immediately remove a guest from its premises for reasons such as nonpayment or being a nuisance, as would be the case with many other establishments. Therefore, it is vital for the public lodging industry and individuals to distinguish transient occupants (i.e., ordinary hotel guests) from non-transient occupants (i.e., tenants, as to whom the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (FRLTA), F.S. §§83.40-83.683, applies).

Transient Occupants (Ordinary Guests)

A transient occupancy means “occupancy when it is the intention of the parties that the occupancy will be temporary. A hotel need only notify the transient occupant that it no longer wishes to entertain him or her as its guest and, “at the time such notice is given,” reimburse the unused portion of any advance payment. A transient occupant who remains on the premises after being so requested to leave may be prosecuted for a second-degree misdemeanor.

Non-Transient Occupants (Tenants)

A non-transient occupancy exists when “it is the intention of the parties that the occupancy will not be temporary. There is a rebuttable presumption that when the dwelling unit occupied is the sole residence of the guest, the occupancy is non-transient.” In practice, a guest in non-transient occupancy is a tenant. A hotel cannot immediately remove tenants, it can only evict them in accordance with the FRLTA. The law protects individuals who intend to make their hotel room a home, even in the absence of a written lease. A hotel may call the police for help, but the police may refuse to get involved in a civil dispute. The hotel may also lock out such guests to motivate them to leave, but risk being sued for unlawful eviction. In many cases, the safest bet for the hotel is to commence an eviction proceeding, despite this being expensive and time-consuming. If such a guest does not pay the bill (a/k/a the rent), the hotel must serve him or her a three-day notice, wait for the three business days to expire, file the lawsuit, obtain service of process, obtain a judgment of possession, obtain a writ of possession, wait for the sheriff to post a 24-hour notice and then, finally, consummate the eviction. To make matters worse, the hotel is forced to incur the expense of resorting to the judiciary while continuing in an undesired relationship in which it is likely losing income.

With the number of visitors and people on the move in this state, it is almost inevitable for Florida hotels and their guests to encounter the problem of not knowing which laws govern their rights and liabilities when their relationship sours. The vague statutes that define guests’ occupancy of hotel rooms encourage situations in which law enforcement officers take a purported position of neutrality, which means that hotels must resort to the judiciary for help.

Do you have a guest overstaying or need to discuss your options as a hotelier?  It is always a good idea to consult with your attorney in these matters. Gulati Law is here to help you through this process. Call us at (407) 900-5054

Source: Florida Bar Journal, Florida Statutes

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