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As they say, “there are two seasons in Canada – Winter and Construction.” Recently, while researching a venue source for an upcoming conference, we learned that the street in front of a hotel under consideration, is slated for beautification. We had to then assess the risks and issues that may arise from scheduled as well as unexpected construction and renovations.

This inspired me to consider construction as my topic for the Top 5 for August. Do you know what to ask a hotel about construction and renovations? Is it just painting guestrooms on a closed floor or will there be jackhammering?

Here are our top 5 construction concerns and how to negotiate the risks:

  1. RENOVATIONS – SOFT:  A soft renovation would indicate the hotel is changing furniture, carpets, painting and doing a general refreshing. Guestrooms are usually done by closing the floor; however, should it include public areas and meeting spaces, it may be a disruption for your conference or at least look terrible!  If you have a good construction clause in the contract you should have recourse, or, failing that specific construction clause, at the least get in writing that these renovations will not disrupt your conference or event, and define what “disruption” means.
  2. RENOVATIONS – HARD:  This is a full renovation! In some cases renovations won’t affect your conference. However, if the full extent of what type of construction, noise and mess in the hotel isn’t disclosed then salvation will only come from good contracting (The Howes Group uses 2 versions of a custom clause for this) OR if your host hotel discloses this in advance and makes arrangements to ensure your conference is successful and interruption free! In rare cases a hotel completely shuts its doors to transform.
  3. EMERGENCY CONSTRUCTION:  A few years ago, a hotel I was working for had emergency construction of the parking garage located UNDER the hotel. The jackhammering reverberated through the hotel for hours each day for a month! What IF this happened to your conference?  This would fall under your Force Majeure OR your construction clause. However, only IF your clause covers “other situations beyond the control of the parties” and not just “emergencies” as that may be too vague.
  4. OUTSIDE CONSTRUCTION: Just as your conference begins, the city starts a noisy, disruptive construction project right outside your venue. Who can be held accountable? Unfortunately, unless the issue was addressed in advance either by specifically asking questions such as, “Are you aware of any upcoming construction either in the hotel or streets around it?” or you have unclear wording in your contract for noise, you may have little recourse. However, if the hotel is notified by the city in advance, one would “hope” this would be disclosed so that a fair solution can be found.
  5. THE UNEXPECTED: The hotel for your conference is signed well in advance, but a year out the ownership changes brands or flags. This may result in renovations on the outside and inside to change the brand signage. This can encompass changing everything from pens to signage. What if the brand changes from a 5-star to a mid-market brand?  What’s the client/sponsor/delegate perception of the host hotel now? Since it’s happened you need to ensure you have a risk aversion construction clause that encompasses this host-inspired alternation.
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