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Alarming Guests - Reflections of a Reluctant Landlady

Updated: Apr 17

In the hospitality industry, maintaining the comfort, safety, and satisfaction of all guests is paramount. However, challenges often arise, testing the policies and patience of even the most seasoned professionals. One particular thorn in my side was guests who could not resist smoking in their rooms.

Our inns, like many others, had a strict no-smoking policy in place, clearly communicated at the time of booking, upon check-in, and visibly displayed within the room. This policy was not just a preference; it was a commitment to ensuring a healthy and safe environment for all guests, as well as adhering to UK laws regarding indoor smoking (which can lead to a fine of £2,500 if we are not enforcing those laws in our venues).

Despite these precautions, on more than one evening, the tranquility of the night was shattered by the piercing sound of the fire alarm leading to all the overnight guests evacuating in their nightwear, until the cause was found, and the alarm was switched off by an already tired member of staff.  The source would be quickly traced back to the offending guest room, where the occupants had decided to smoke indoors. The smoke would not only set off the alarm but also permeated the fabrics and furnishings, leaving a lingering odour that would undoubtedly require additional cleaning.

In my view it was always a thoughtless act as well as illegal – none of our bedrooms were designated as smoking rooms.  Sometimes we would go into a room and find socks taped over the smoke detector.  Or cigarette ends underneath the window outside.

In the aftermath of false alarms, we were faced with the dilemma of addressing the violation of our no-smoking policy. The decision was often made to impose a cleaning charge on the guests responsible, as per the policy outlined at the time of their booking. This was usually angrily disputed, but the fee was intended to cover the cost of deep cleaning the room to remove the smoke odour and ensure it met our standards for future guests.

The question of legality regarding such charges is one that many hoteliers may face. In our case, the policy to charge a cleaning fee was not only legal but also a standard practice within the industry. The key to its legality lay in clear communication and agreement to the terms and conditions of the stay, which included the no-smoking policy and the associated charges for non-compliance.

Guests had been informed of these policies through multiple channels: during the reservation process, within the confirmation materials, and via signage within the room. By choosing to stay with us, guests agreed to these terms, thereby entering into a contractual agreement that included adherence to the no-smoking policy and acknowledgment of the associated fees for violations.

Incidents of this nature served as a poignant reminder of the challenges of enforcing hotel policies and the importance of clear communication with guests. It also highlighted the necessity of having firm policies in place, not only for the well-being of all guests but also to protect the property and ensure compliance UK law.

In conclusion, while the imposition of a cleaning charge for smoking in a hotel room may seem stringent to some, it is a necessary measure to ensure the health and comfort of all guests. Provided that the policy is legally compliant, clearly communicated, and agreed upon by the guests, it remains a legitimate and effective tool in maintaining the standards of hospitality that guests expect and deserve.

A man sat up wrapped in a bed sheet smoking a cigarette


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