Hotel Property Control and the Duty of Care

By R. Britton Colbert, CHA, CHIA

“Travelers expect and demand secure and safe experiences at the lodging properties they choose to visit” is the first sentence of the preface of Security and Loss Prevention Management, published by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Hotel general managers and their department heads, among others, are responsible for managing and controlling the lodging premises to provide for all on the property a safe and secure environment. Property control and safe premises reflect the duty of care travelers expect, as expressed in the above quote.

Safe premises begin with the general manager empowering the department heads, e.g., Director of Security, Chief Engineer, Director of Housekeeping, to follow and meet, at a minimum, operating/facilities guidelines, brand standards, and best practices within the lodging industry to provide for the care and safety of guests, invitees, and hotel employees.

Examples of property control would include (but are not limited to):

  • Having an effective and qualified Chief Engineer conversant with the operating guidelines/manuals of the equipment and systems for optimal and safe operation, and who would effectively control outside contractors, particularly regarding permits for compliance and safety.
  • The Director of Security would chair the Safety Committee, conduct recorded property patrols sensitive to unusual/suspicious persons on the premises, actively communicate with appropriate department heads, and provide ongoing suggestions to further the safety of the facilities.
  • The Director of Human Resources would conduct background, criminal, and credit checks of prospective employees as well as conducting effective interviewing and investigating prior to employment, to the extent allowed.

Property control encompasses trained, knowledgeable employees, adherence to standards and guidelines, and supervisory guidance by a general manager who is constantly aware of safety issues and conditions with the end result being a safe and secure environment – the duty of care for guests, invitees, and employees.

R. Britton Colbert has 35+ years of hotel industry experience, including direct operating responsibility for nine hotels in California, Washington, Illinois and Texas. He has consulted or testified in federal, state, municipal courts and for the Baltimore Police Commission. Frequent matters include franchise issues, wrongful death from fire, drowning, shooting incidents, and assaults, as well as accounting/financial and condemnation matters for the hotel industry. Mr. Colbert currently holds a real estate license from California, and the CHA and CHIA certifications from the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.