Nathan J. Breen, an attorney with Howe and Hutton in Chicago, is an expert on contracts. Here are some tips he shared in his session.
• Don’t worry about whose form — the hotel’s or yours — will be used. “Don’t get hung up on that because it is not that important,” said Breen. “The language of the contract is what will prevail.” That said, planners should be on guard for unclear or ambiguous wording, and make sure vague terms like “you” and “them” are defined. “You want to make sure that anyone who looks at the contract would know who is responsible for what,” Breen said.
• Attrition is always of concern. The contract should make clear how the attrition fee will be calculated — cumulative or per night — and how resold rooms will be treated.
• Planners should remember that attrition can affect other aspects of a contract. For example, a hotel might provide free function rooms based on room nights used by a group. “If you aren’t filling the rooms, you might no longer have comped meeting space and other concessions,” said Breen.
• Groups should include a clause that allows them to cancel, without liability, due to issues that did not exist when the contract was signed. One issue is deterioration in the quality of the hotel.
• “If the quality goes down, you want to have a means to cancel, but you must have a measure to assess quality, such as a Star or Diamond rating.”
• Other issues include a change in the property’s management; construction or renovation at the hotel, particularly if such a disruption would affect the meeting; a strike or labor dispute; or the unavailability of an essential facility — for example, a convention center where the meeting was to be held — due to unforeseen circumstances.