Guest or Tenant?
By Zachary C. Myers
An issue that may arise in eviction cases is whether an individual is an innkeeper’s guest with very limited rights or a landlord’s tenant with more robust procedural and substantive rights.
The Utah Supreme Court has held that an individual staying in a motel can be a tenant, and if so, can “only be dispossessed of the apartment by resort to the statutory remedy of unlawful detainer.” See Hackford v. Snow, 657 P.2d 1271, 1275 (Utah 1982).
Whether an individual is a guest or a tenant is primarily a question of the intent of the parties. If a written agreement states that a resident is a guest, then they are likely a guest. If there is no written agreement, or if it is ambiguous, the Court will use a multi-factored approach to determine “dominant character” of the relationship.
An agreement does not establish a landlord-tenant relationship if it does not transfer a possessory interest. The touchstone of possession is the right to exclude others from the property.
An innkeeper-guest relationship is both temporary and transient. A guest in a hotel can be ejected by the innkeeper for nonpayment without resort to judicial process. See Utah Code Ann. § 29-2-103.
If the understanding of the parties is that the rental is being used as a home, then there is likely a landlord-tenant relationship. “Any person going from his own home, whatever the distance may be, and applying for and receiving accommodations at a hotel, is a traveler, and therefore a guest.” Fisher v. Bonneville Hotel Co.
The line between guest and tenant are not clearly defined and this area of law is open to further development in the state of Utah.
If you are wondering whether you are entitled to right’s as a tenant, call Hepworth, Murray & Associates at 801.872.2222.