Tourism in Europe: the responsibility of French hotels

France is the destination for over 70 millions tourists every year. Many of them choose to spend their vacations in a hotel, which should be synonymous with comfort and pleasant vacations. Unfortunately, it can happen that your lovely vacations are spoiled by the theft or the damage of your personal belongings in the hotel where you stay! Many people ignore that in most cases the hotel is responsible and has the duty to compensate their clients. This legal duty drove the hotels to insure themselves. In most cases, the hotel’s insurance solves directly this kind of litigation.

A limited responsibility:

The hotel’s responsibility is limited. There are some conditions linked to the victim of the theft or damage, the personal belonging concerned and the place where the theft or the damaging took place that need to be put together.

The victim:

The victim must be a client who stays at the hotel for less than three months. The hotel must be located outside the area where the client usually resides.

The hotel:

The term “hotel” includes the “auberges” and the “chambres d’hôtes”. However, the camp-sites are not concerned by the hotel’s responsibility rules.

The personals belongings:

The law refers to all movables belonging to the client, including his/her vehicle. However, living animals are excluded.

The theft or damage must have taken place in a certain sphere of influence of the hotel:
Without having to prove any fault of the hotel, it is held responsible if the personal belonging which was stolen or damaged was in a supervised area. These areas are the hotel’s buildings, as well as the vehicles belonging to the hotel (an airport shuttle, for example) and the car park, when it is under the hotel’s control and if it is only accessible by the clients. In this case, the hotel is also responsible for the client’s car or his personal belongings that were in the car.

The hotel can hardly be exonerated:

The hotel can not invoke the intervention of a third party in order to free from its responsibility. The only possible exoneration is the cause beyond control (force majeure) or the serious fault of the client, which are both difficult to prove. In order to avoid a judgment diminishing the hotel’s duties to compensate, it is important, as a client, to take some measures of prudence: never leave your personal belongings unattended, clearly visible, etc.

The limitation of the hotel’s responsibility:

The hotel’s responsibility is limited by two ceilings. If the theft or damage occurred in the client’s car which was parked in the hotel’s car park, the compensation cannot exceed 50 times the price of the room’s daily rate. If the theft or damage happened in the hotel’s building or car park (in the case of a stolen car), the hotel can be condemned to compensate the client until 100 times the price of the room’s daily rate.

The hotel’s responsibility is sometimes unlimited:

This is the case when the stolen object was entrusted to the hotel by the client himself, especially if it was a deposit in the hotel’s safe. Normally, the client obtains a receipt. If such a receipt is not automatically given, it’s recommended to ask for it: it will be easier to prove the deposit in case of theft.

In every circumstance the hotel’s responsibility can be unlimitedly held if the client is able to prove the hotel’s fault.

The hotel’s responsibility is compulsory:

The hotel cannot contractually exclude its responsibility. The signs that you sometimes see in hotels explaining that their responsibility is excluded in case of theft does not rely on any legal basis. It is impossible to oblige the client to deposit valuables in the hotel’s safe.

The hotel cannot refuse, without valid reasons, to deposit personal belongings. A valid reason can be the dangerous or cumbersome characteristics of the object. The value of the object is not a valid reason.

The proof:
In case of theft or damage of the personal belongings, the client has to prove that the object was in the hotel and that the damage was caused by another person. The proof can be provided by any means, but it is not always easy. The client has to prove, as well, the value of the stolen or damaged object. The copies of receipts or bills can be helpful.

Conclusion:

The responsibility of the hotel is easily retained. In practice, the situation can be more difficult, as the provision of the necessary proofs by the client is often impossible.

Some tips:

  • Do not leave you personal belongings unattended, stay prudent.
  • Deposit your valuables in the hotel safe and as for a receipt.
  • Inform immediately the hotel about the damage or theft.
  • Make a complaint at the police office as soon as possible.
  • Try to reach an agreement with the hotel.

Further information:

If you need further information, please contact your national ECC.