Growing and managing a hotel business requires constant consideration of legal issues and staying up to date on changing statutes, regulations and judicial interpretations. This can be even more complicated when your hotel business operates in more than one state, or even country.
Developing a relationship with an experienced hotel attorney who will become familiar with your business and can keep you up to date on changes that impact your operations and advise you when you want to make changes can save you time, money, and stress–and help you avoid unwittingly creating liability or violating the law.
Core Legal Issues in Hotel Management and Development
There are a wide range of legal issues facing hotel owners and managers, and some are specific to the hotel, franchise or jurisdiction. However, there are several key issues that will impact all or most of those responsible for the operations of a hotel.
Safety Issues in Hotels
Premises liability is an issue for any business or property owner, but those issues are magnified in the operation of a hotel. A hotel has large numbers of guests passing through, and because of the nature of the hotel business, those guests are engaging in all different types of activities in the hotel and on the hotel property.
Swimming pools, balconies and other potential hazards all create liability issues that must be addressed through safety measures, warnings and other precautions. Similarly, if the hotel operates an airport shuttle or other transportation, there is additional potential for liability.
Each of these issues requires a very specific approach,and may entail aspects you have not considered. For example, in the case of the airport shuttle, you would naturally seek out adequate motor vehicle insurance. However, you would also have to take care in the employees you entrusted with operation of the vehicle, and would need to understand and enforce any limitations on use of the vehicle that could result in exclusion from insurance coverage.
Food and Beverage Issues in Hotel Operations
When a hotel serves food and beverages, a number of additional legal considerations come into play. First, there are licensing requirements, which may vary depending on the location of the hotel. In most instances, it is not only the hotel itself that requires licensing, but also certain employees who will be playing roles such as supervising the kitchen or serving alcohol.
Health and safety standards are typically enforced by local governments, and inspections are typically required to insure compliance with food handling and storage regulations, cleanliness, and other standards.
Serving food and alcohol also raises additional liability issues, such as responsibility for food poisoning, allergic reactions caused by negligent mingling of foods or failure to disclose common allergens, serving alcohol to a minor, or over-serving an adult.
Employment Issues in Hotel Management
Like any business, a hotel is required to comply with a wide range of state, federal, and possibly local laws regarding employment. These range from minimum wage and overtime laws to employee safety regulations, age requirements, anti-discrimination statutes and more.
In the hotel environment, there may be unique complications. For example, different minimum wages may apply with regard to different positions within the hotel, and tip pooling may be an issue. It may also be unclear which employees are and are not legally entitled to overtime pay, and even how to count work hours if certain employees live onsite or are on call at times.
Sanitation Issues in Hotels
The food sanitation issues discussed above are just one area in which cleanliness is critical to hotel management. For example, one of the most common claims made against hotels in recent years has related to bed bug bites, or bed bugs traveling home with a guest.
Hotel Business Relationships
A busy hotel will have contracts with a wide range of outside companies. There may be a corporate franchise involved. The hotel will work with a number of vendors, from food suppliers to landscaping and snow removal companies, and many more. There may be outside maintenance, and will certainly be suppliers of soaps, shampoos, linens, furnishings and other necessities. Some will be large, one-time or occasional arrangements, while others will involve regular services or deliveries. Some will have a clear and immediate impact on the hotel’s ability to keep operating smoothly and provide satisfactory service to guests.
In a well-managed hotel, each of those arrangements will be pursuant to a contract that takes into account a variety of factors, including how critical to operations the service or delivery is.
Get a Veteran Hotel Lawyer on Board
The above contains just a sampling of the legal issues that face a hotel owner or manager on an ongoing basis. When you retain an experienced hotel attorney to guide and advise you, you can be free to focus on operations while someone else manages the intricate legalities and keeps you up to date. Contact KPPB LAW for more information.