|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: July 14, 1997
You have the following question: Is the city entitled to a hotel-motel tax from the residents of motels who rent their motel rooms by the week or other period? A couple of old motels in the city get little or no overnight business, but rent their rooms by the week or other period. They have not been collecting the hotel-motel tax from those residents. The answer is that generally the motels should collect the hotel tax, within the limitations outlined below and in Private Acts 1981, Chapter 51.
The city has levied a hotel-motel tax under the authority of Private Acts 1981, Chapter 51. That Act defines "Hotel" as:
any structure or any portion of any structure which is occupied or intended or designed for occupancy by transients for dwelling, lodging or sleeping purposes, and includes any hotel, inn, tourist camp, tourist court, tourist cabin, motel or any place in which rooms, lodging or accommodation are furnished to transients for a consideration.
That definition is generally consistent with the definition of "hotel" and "motel" found in a number of cases in the United States. [19 Words & Phrases, "Hotels, Apartment Hotel, Lodging Houses, and Tourist Camps or Courts," 100; 27 Words & Phrases, "Motels," 68.].
The Act also defines "transients" as "any person who exercises occupancy or is entitled to occupancy for any rooms, lodging or accommodation in a hotel for a period of less than ninety (90) continuous days."
Under Sections 3 and 4 of the Act, the tax is collected by the hotel-motel from the transient and remitted to the town by the hotel-motel operator through the trustee or "such other officer as may by ordinance of the legislative body be charged with the duty of collection thereof..." However, Section 3 of the Act also provides that:
When a person has maintained occupancy for ninety (90) continuous days, he shall receive from the operator a refund or credit for the tax previously collected from or charged to him, and the operator shall receive credit for the amount of such tax if previously paid or reported to the town.
It appears clear from the definitions of "hotel" and "transient" and other provisions of the Act, that the city's hotel-motel tax is levied on virtually all structures that provide rooms, lodging or accommodation to transients, where the period of occupancy on the part of the transient is less than 90 continuous days.
I have enclosed a copy of Private Acts 1981, Chapter 51, for your use. It contains all the information you need to compel the motel operators in question to levy the hotel-motel tax, subject to the limitations contained in the Act.
I obviously do not know if the trustee has ever collected the city’s hotel-motel tax, but I suspect you will not find him willing to do it. I suggest that the city designate the recorder or some other official to perform that job.
Let me know if I can help you further in this or any other matter.
Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant