Your car was broken into at a hotel. What are your rights?

Attorney: Hotel parking lots targeted repeatedly are negligent

ORLANDO, Fla. – Four times in the past year car, burglars targeted cars parked at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Altamonte Springs, according to police. Atlamonte Springs police said 20 cars have been burglarized in the hotel parking lot since January 1, 2019.

Each time, valuables were taken from several cars and windows were smashed leaving behind broken glass in the parking lot.

Lonnie Elliott, living at the Residence Inn for several months, noticed police and patrol cars one morning.

“There was a heavy police presence,” Elliott said. “We didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t even know what’s going on until now.”

Elliott said not once did the hotel front office mention the break-ins.

“They didn’t say anything of that nature,” Elliott said. “But there are signs posted, and they didn’t even say read the sign.”

Signs posted throughout the hotel parking lot warn guests the “hotel is not liable for loss,” as is typical in many hotel parking lots.

News 6 legal analyst Steven Kramer said Florida law caps hotel liability for guests who experience loss at $500 typically but not necessarily if the hotel has a history of crime.

"If the hotel is negligent, if they noticed a rash of break-ins and they don't advise their guests that there's a rash of break-ins, that's a problem," Kramer said. "Where they've got thieves that are breaking into cars on a repeated basis, well I think that probably puts a hotel in the position of being negligent and outweighs any implied notice because that's what you have when you put a sign up, it's implied notice."

Kramer said hotels not telling guests about prior burglaries is bad business.

"It is in the hotel's interest for many reasons to go ahead and disclose that, one of them being that it puts a guest on notice and let them know to take extra steps," Kramer said. "It just a common-sense move that any hotel should make. It's either short-sighted or misguided business tactics. That the cost of installing proper security measures is not outweighed by the risk that it poses to guests in the hotel itself is a liability because you're not just talking about property here, you're talking about potentially people getting hurt. And that's something to take seriously."

The Residence Inn by Marriott Altamonte Springs parking lot was most recently burglarized on February 11, according to Altamonte Springs police.

Before that, it was targeted on December 30, 2019, along with several other hotels on the same night, including the Extended Stay Maitland and Courtyard Marriott in Maitland right next to each other.

In all, almost 70 cars were burglarized that day, most of them by smashing windows and shattering glass all over the inside of the cars.

Since then, not the Residence Inn, nor the Courtyard Marriott, nor the Extended Stay have added security cameras.

Existing cameras only cover a few of the entrances at one of the hotels.

A PR representative sent News 6 this statement from the Courtyard Orlando Maitland:

“Unfortunately, there were many area businesses impacted by recent car burglaries, including seven cars at our property. We are working with the Maitland Police Department on their active investigation as well as working with each individual guest to remedy the situation.”

The General Manager at the Residence Inn by Marriott Altamonte Springs said the repeated break-ins are a matter they are "taking seriously" but said she needed to speak with her corporate office.

After several unanswered requests for comment, Marriott Americas Regional Media Contact Allison Sitch responded but didn't answer direct questions about why the hotels haven't added more cameras or warned guests.

"Because we take the safety and security of guests very seriously, we do not share the details of those protocols," Sitch wrote.

News 6 emailed Extended Stay America media contact Rob Ballew five times seeking comment and received no response.

Guests said it seems hotels just don't want to "get involved."

"Whether the hotel wants to get involved or not, they are involved," Kramer said. "The hotel has a duty to protect people. And if somebody gets hurt you could see a negligent security case for that injury and when there is property loss you're going to see claims. And those claims may be limited in some instances but in other instances they may not be limited."

Kramer said hotel guests who've been burglarized should make a claim to management and if it's rejected they should consider small claims court. Kramer said he's had experience with similar cases and won.

"If you have been a victim and your car's been broken into I think you can go to the hotel and say 'I'm a guest here and it looks like there have been past incidents of crime and I'd like to be in reimbursed for my property,'" Kramer said. "And what the hotel is probably going to say is we're not liable and if we are liable our limit is $500. And if you can't come to an agreement you file a small claims suit against the hotel."

Altamonte Springs Police Department public information officer Michelle Sosa said the department is working to stop the repeated break-ins.

"The Altamonte Springs Police Department has taken a task force style approach by collaborating with agencies throughout Seminole and Orange counties, to include FDLE," Sosa said. "Through crime analysis, hotspot locations are identified and operations are conducted to catch criminals in the act... We have a plain-clothed Street Crimes Unit that focuses on crimes such as vehicle break-ins. We have supplemented this workgroup with additional detectives to participate in targeted operations, held missions where Bike Patrol officers have addressed the concern and established an increased presence of marked patrol vehicles."

Attorney Steve Kramer advised hotel guests to ask about car break-ins as soon as they check in. He said hotels aren’t required to talk about past crime but believes it would be in a hotel’s best interest to disclose that information upon request.

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