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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Speaking of Bed Bugs...

I read an article recently that really got my attention.  It was about the recent "rash" of bed bug sightings in hotel beds, and it approached the problem from the hotel perspective (See Smartmeetings, December edition, Page 32).  Specifically, it provided a sample "Pest Clause" for use by hotels in hotel contracts.


And, you have GOT to be kidding!

I can hardly express my revulsion at the thought(s)!  First, the prospect of bed bugs is a deal breaker for me.  I'd rather sleep in my car, thank you.  Second, any hotel using this clause has an impressive attitude (a lot of nerve, for one thing, and a deeply disturbing lack of confidence, for another).  

The sample "pest clause" promises that the hotel will take "..reasonable measures to avoid the presence of bed bugs in the hotel..."  Seriously?  Personally, I am not interested in the hotel's "reasonable measures," and neither are your members, let alone your volunteer leaders.  With all due respect to the author of the article, who is an excellent attorney, I want the hotel to drop everything else in the world, fix the problem RIGHT NOW, and to have fully leveled with me concerning any issue related to pest infestations.

As a lawyer, I would assume an association meeting planner had gone temporarily insane to consider entering into a contract that includes such a clause.  The clause protects the hotel, which is nice for the hotel, but a nonprofit (especially the staff of the nonprofit) could be severely harmed by such incidents.  The bad taste of the event is certain to linger in the memory of volunteer leaders and members alike for years.  And, if the staff is aware of such a clause and accepts it, volunteers are likely to include staff members in the blame for such an incident.  

A better approach to the bug infestation problem would be a clause that requires disclosure of significant infestations, both past and present, by the hotel.  The following is an example of a clause the parties might want to consider:

Hotel shall disclose to Group any significant instances of pest infestations on Hotel premises within the prior 18 months of the date the Agreement is executed, and continuing thereafter until conclusion of the Group's event at Hotel.  For purposes of this Agreement, "significant instances of pest infestations" include lodging of a verbal or written complaint about interior area pests or pest infestations from five (5) or more guests within any rolling 30-day period.  Disclosure shall include the nature of the complaint, dates of complaints, type of infestation, number of complaints, and actions taken by Hotel in response to said complaints.  In the event that Group determines in good faith that the pest infestation is likely to materially affect attendance at Group events or use of Hotel sleeping rooms, Group may, in its discretion, cancel this Agreement without penalty, elect that Group will be excused from all sleeping room attrition clauses as well as food and beverage guarantees set forth elsewhere in this Agreement, or accept action plans proposed by Hotel to prevent adverse effects of pest infestations.

Of course, it is important to tailor this clause to the circumstances, and to check with legal counsel concerning all hotel contract questions.  Meanwhile, may your meetings be happy and pest infestation free.