In real estate terms, the right to be left free of interference is called “quiet enjoyment.” By the same token, event attendees have the right to expect their experience at a hotel or other venue to be free from interference from outside sources. Construction, strikes, and even other meetings held at the same time are but a few of the occurrences that can get in the way.
There are several provisions in a well-drafted meetingthat can deal with typical situations and protect your group:
Construction or renovation in or around a hotel can be disruptive, both from a noise and an access perspective. Many planners include contract clauses requiring the hotel to notify them of any construction ongoing at the time of the meeting and seeking assurance — the word most often used is a “warranty” — that any such construction will not disrupt the meeting.
Hotels often push back, however, noting that renovations are a frequent occurrence and often are not disruptive. Thus, the hotel will argue, it should only have to notify the meeting planner of “substantial” construction which will “materially” disrupt a meeting.
The problem is that those terms are subjective and could lead to misunderstandings. If a hotel resists notification of any construction, then a reasonable compromise would be notification of any construction costing more than a specified amount (e.g., $100,000). This should be accompanied by a statement that the group can terminate the meeting without liability if, in its reasonable judgment, the construction will be disruptive.
Strikes or labor disruptions are another cause of interference. Again, a well-written contract should include a provision requiring the hotel to notify the planner of its union status and, if unionized, when its collective bargaining agreements expire. The hotel should also be required to notify the planner of any strikes or labor disputes. If the group has a policy of not crossing picket lines, the contract should specify that the group can cancel without liability in the event of a strike or labor dispute.
Then there are other meetings being held on the premises at the same time. Many corporations (especially pharmaceutical companies) insist in theirthat no meetings of other companies in a similar product or service business may be booked at the same time. This avoids a competitor “spying” on an organization's activity.
There are also reasons why an organization would want a contract provision requiring hotel disclosure of other meetings that are being held at the same time. For instance, if a group is using a hotel for an examination or study session, it might not want a loud corporate sales meeting to be held in an adjoining room. Requiring a hotel to provide information about other meetings being held in-house can help to avoid such situations.
Finally, some planners who book meetings far in advance worry about deterioration of a property's appearance or facilities between when the meeting is booked and when it is held. Using language requiring the hotel to be in the same condition as when it was booked is helpful, but can lead to confusion. A better choice might be to require that it maintain the same AAA or Mobile Travel Guide ranking.
In drafting any contract provision to provide a meetings manager and his or her group with “quiet enjoyment” of the hotel premises, care should be taken to be sure that the language is clear and unambiguous, so that both parties will understand their rights and responsibilities.
James M. Goldberg is a principal in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Goldberg & Associates PLLC. His practice focuses on representing associations, corporations, and independent meeting planners. He is the author of The Meeting Planner's Legal Handbook.