Motels, Hotels, and Transient Lodging

Hotels, motels, similar businesses offering transient lodging do not normally have to go through a court eviction process to remove a guest. The business may not discriminate because of race or other protected classes, but generally may remove an unruly guest without a court order. The business may call law enforcement to assist with removal if need be.


Some guests in transient lodging stay longer term. These situations raise the issue of at what point a guest becomes a tenant.


“Residence in a hotel, motel, or other transient lodging” is not covered by the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.[1] The unlawful detainer statutes generally apply to tenants. Only tenants in actual possession need be named as defendants in an unlawful detainer action.[2]


“Transient lodging” is defined by statute in a circular fashion to include a building where accommodations are furnished for hire by “transient guests.” [3]

Under Seattle ordinances a continuous transient lodging of one month or more creates a presumption that the relationship is a rental or lease.[4] This does not end the debate even when guests stay for a month or more, however.  This provision creates a mere presumption. Legal presumptions may be rebutted.[5]

Factors that might come into play in a given situation include, for example, the duration of the stay; the payment period (daily, weekly, or monthly); how the business holds itself out to the public; furniture and furnishings provided; utilities provided; maid service, room service, and other services provided.

These are factors, not a bright-line test. Even if these factors are present, the result may be a tenancy if that is the parties’ intent.  An “apartment hotel” where maid service is provided and the room is furnished may be held in court to be a tenancy, for example.

Consult with an attorney if you are not sure if a guest is still a guest, or is now tenant protected by landlord-tenant and eviction laws.


[1] RCW 59.18.040(3).

[2] RCW 59.12.040; 59.12.060.

[3] RCW 19.48.010.

[4] SMC 5.30.050.

[5] See, for example, Black’s Law Dictionary 126 (6th ed. 1990).