Every contract clause opens up a string of questions. So it's always best to know all you can before you go into negotiations. Here we take a look at the “Function Room Assignments” clause.

Clause: Function Room Assignments

The function room assignments listed in this contract are tentative. Final function and meeting rooms will be assigned by Hotel three months prior to meeting dates. Hotel reserves the right to reassign function rooms to accommodate both Group and all other groups or parties using Hotel's facilities during Group's meeting.

Effect: Will the Room Fit the Function?

The group and hotel have apparently agreed on which function rooms will accommodate the various components of the group's meeting. These room assignments are tentative until three months before the meeting. Generally, a group would not need to publish a program with room names more than three months out, so this time frame may be reasonable.

What is less reasonable is that there are no function room criteria to guide the hotel on how function room changes may be made. Room size, location, decor, and other issues important to the success of the meeting should be addressed. The risk of ending up with unsuitable rooms is especially prevalent if the site inspection and contract negotiation takes place a year or more before the meeting. Staff turnover may mean these details don't get communicated if they're not in the contract.

Besides making sure that final rooms are large enough, other issues not specified in the contract could result in trouble. Here are two examples.

  • The group has selected a room for its keynote session with four hard walls (as opposed to sections of a ballroom) because of sensitivity to noise. The final room assignment, while just as big, puts the keynote in a section of the ballroom.

  • The group selects five small rooms on the second floor for concurrent breakout sessions. Because of the group's unique program, people will flow from one room to another throughout the breakout time. The final room assignment puts two of the breakouts on the 17th floor on a key-only access level.

To address the issue of the adequacy of the size of final function rooms, the parties can agree that function room assignments in the contract are final, rather than tentative, and that requests for change must require both hotel and group approval. If this language is agreed upon, the group should be as flexible as possible to allow the hotel to sell its other meeting space. Alternatively, the group can specify that final function rooms assigned three months out must be assigned based on size and other factors specified in the contract. The group can specify minimum square footage for each type of function and room or refer to a neutral calculator for minimum room size such as the MPI Comfort Calculator.

Last, but certainly not least, the final sentence of the clause basically negates the rest of the paragraph. Room assignments are not “final” if the hotel reserves the right to reassign function rooms. That last sentence should be stricken or changed to specify that the hotel may make such reassignments only through a certain date, perhaps three months out in this case.

Tyra W. Hilliard, CMP, is a meeting industry lawyer and an assistant professor at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Contact her at tyra@mindspring.com.

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