Is Your Hotel Security Staff Exposing You to Liability?


Are you a hotel owner and/or operator who employs a private security staff? If so, do not let administrative inattention threaten your business. Take a few key steps to reduce your potential liability. California regulations effective since 2011 require that all hoteliers employing their own security guards must be licensed with the state and failure to comply with the requirement could expose hoteliers to premises liability and negligence lawsuits.

Security guard licensing requirements under California law

Chapter 11.4 of the California Business & Professions Code governs licensing of proprietary security services.  Section 7574.12 prevents any business from employing private security guards unless it is registered with the state. Section 7574.12 provides:

“No person shall engage in the business of a proprietary private security employer unless registered with the department pursuant to this chapter.”

Moreover, Section 7574.10 specifically prevents any business from providing security unless each person employed as a security guard is registered with the California Bureau of Security & Investigative Services. These requirements apply to all hotel security guards and have the effect of requiring any hotel owner and/or operator employing its own security staff to: (1) register with the state, and (2) ensure that each security guard is licensed with the state.

To apply for registration you must be at least 18 years old and undergo a criminal background check through the California Department of Justice and FBI. For more details on the registration process, go here. To become certified, applicants are required to complete set hours of training and course work focused on various topics; once registered, private security officers must complete two additional mandatory courses within thirty days of registering. The training requirements are laid out in Title 16, Division 7, Article 9 and can also be found online at the California Bureau of Security & Investigative Services website (

An invitation to litigation

If your property does not license every security guard as required by state law, the hotel owner and operator may be exposed to potential liability under a legal theory of negligence per se, in the event that someone is injured on the property in a common area.  Even if the hotel took reasonable care to prevent injury by maintaining the property in a safe condition, thus fulfilling its legal duty, a violation of the state law (i.e. failure to license security guards) would establish a breach of the hotel’s duty.

A failure to license security staff effectively strengthens a personal injury plaintiff’s case by proving the first two of the four elements of negligence simply by showing the hotel and/or its security guards were unlicensed.  As a result, a plaintiff’s likelihood in prevailing in a negligence or premises liability claim is significantly increased.

To reduce exposure and protect against potential liability, hotel owners and operators employing their own security staff should:

  • Register the hotel with the California Bureau of Security & Investigative Services as a “proprietary private security employer;”
  • Ensure that each current security guard employed by the hotel becomes licensed with the California Bureau of Security & Investigative Services, and;
  •  Amend the hiring criteria for hotel-employed security guards to include a requirement that the applicant be licensed with the California Bureau of Security & Investigative Services.

Failure to procure the proper licenses could prove incredibly costly for hoteliers that utilize “in-house” security guards. Therefore, hoteliers should take the necessary steps to ensure their security guards are all licensed with the state.

This blog post is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.

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Michelman Robinson

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