Articles Posted in Ask the Hotel Lawyer™

Published on:

10 May 2017

Hotel Real Estate: Forecasting Clear Skies with Some Clouds and Slightly Cooling Temperatures

For well over a decade, the members of the hotel industry’s preeminent think tank, “LIIC – The Lodging Industry Investment Council,” are annually surveyed to develop a list of the major hotel investment opportunities and challenges for the coming year.  This exhaustive survey results in the LIIC Top Ten; a highly regarded profile of investment sentiment and attitudes for the lodging industry for the forthcoming 12 months. Altogether, the members of LIIC represent direct acquisition and disposition control of well over $40 billion of lodging real estate.

Members are highly active and have the pulse of the market, with 45% of LIIC hotel investors having successfully purchased a hotel in the last 12 months and an additional 16% having made offers but not been the winner.  Moreover, 76% plan to sell a hotel over the next 24 months.

The hospitality industry’s most influential investors, lenders, corporate real estate executives, REIT’s, public hotel companies, brokers and significant lodging equity sources are represented on the Council.  LIIC serves as the leading industry think tank for the lodging business (www.liic.org).

Mike Cahill, LIIC co-chairman, produced this year’s survey (www.mikecahill.com).  Mr. Cahill is CEO and Founder of HREC – Hospitality Real Estate Counselors, a leading international hotel and casino brokerage and advisory firm (16 offices nationwide) specializing in lodging property sales, debt financing, consulting, appraisals and litigation support (www.hrec.com).  Nate Shartar and Alexander Cammarata, Associates in HREC’s Denver office, assisted throughout the process.

2017 Top Ten LIIC Survey Results

  1. Hotel Real Estate: Forecasting Clear Skies with Some Clouds and Slightly Cooling Temperatures: Overall, the 2017 LIIC Survey is more positive than 2016 and starkly different than the peak year survey in 2015.  Responses reveal a calmness, compared with wide spread nervousness in April 2016.  Chinese investment is expected (36%) to slow slightly and Brexit’s impact on US hotels is considered slight.  Private Equity followed by Listed REITs are predicted to dominate the purchase of Upscale to Luxury hotels; while, Regional Owner/Operators are projected to dominate the purchase of Economy to Upper Midscale hotels.
  2. Movement in the Hotel Real Estate Cycle?: Most investors (68%) believe we are still in the extra innings of the current cycle which began in 2009; however, an astute, highly intelligent minority (32%) believe we have begun a new cycle.  Projections for the US economy are positive, with 60% forecasting GDP growth averaging greater than 2% over the next 24 months.
  3. Asset Pricing Bid/Ask Settles, Values Flat to Maybe Increasing: Over the next 12 months, 54% project that lodging real estate values will be flat in comparison to 2016.  However, a sizable group (36%) forecast a slight increase in values (up to 5%).  Favorite investment target, Upper Upscale lodging properties.
  4. 2017’s Greatest Threats to Hotel Investment?: The top three threats on the horizon:
    • New Lodging Supply: 90% of LIIC members cited new hotel supply as the current and dominant top investment concern.  Hypocritically, 81% are building new lodging assets.
    • Increasing Interest Rates: With interest rates increasing gradually up to 100bps over the next 24 months, sellers need to understand the impact on asset pricing for hotels they are looking to sell.
    • Government Mandated Minimum Wage Increases: Investors (28%; down from last year) are threatened by government mandated minimum wage increases and the corresponding impact on hotel operating costs (74% anticipate a gradual negative impact over the next five years).
  5. Hotel Transaction Market Continues Slight Cooling: 52% of responders forecast the total dollar volume of U.S. hotel transactions in calendar 2017 will be down relative to year-end 2016 and 22% believe volume will be flat.  Similarly, 46% believe the number of assets sold to be down; while, 32% anticipate the number of assets sold to be flat.
  6. Hotel Debt Available, Yet Less Favorable: Hotel investors are “debt leery” causing 56% to seek refinancing of existing debt over the coming year even though 52% believe the optimum refinance window closed in the last six months.  Owners have more concern with interest rate increases on senior debt than lender’s available leverage percentages.
  7. Lodging Development Marches Along: Investor attitude stays positive on the concept of building new lodging properties.  As to developing hotels, 66% of LIIC responds “yes, if you are selective about product and markets”.  Respondents are putting their money behind their votes, with 81% of relevant LIIC members having new hotels actively under development.
  8. Want to Buy a Hotel?  Quantity and Quality:  Quantity:  42% of investors believe that a “below average quantity” of hotels are available for purchase closely followed by 44% at “average quantity.”  Quality (desirability to purchase):  52% believe the quality is average and 28% suggest negatively “slightly worse than 2016”.
  9. Markets NOT to Invest in?:  LIIC members were asked which of the top 25 markets they “would not consider buying a hotel” in: Houston, TX (64%), Nashville, TN (32%), Detroit, MI (28%), New York, NY (28%), St. Louis, MO-IL (28%)Sleeper – where to buy?  New Orleans! Not one vote against recorded.
  10. Marriott and Starwood Merger?  If you own a Starwood branded hotel, 36% surprisingly believe the value of Starwood lodging investments have increased specifically due to the merger.  On the other hand, the primary concern (22%) stressing hotel owners is decreasing negotiating leverage with Mega Marriott going forward.

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Published on:

 

10 January 2017

I have often mentioned how much I enjoy working with all my friends and colleagues in the hospitality industry.  I am also fortunate to work with the talented, committed group of lawyers who comprise Global Hospitality Group®.  It is with pleasure that I let you know that one of our members, Brandon Chock, has been promoted to Partner at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM).

Brandon has a keen legal mind, more than 10 years’ experience in the world of real estate, finance and hospitality, an awesome work ethic and is an all-around pleasure to work with. I love having him on my team, and our clients love him on their team, too!

Brandon has played a key role in numerous hotel transactions, including: CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

27 April 2016

In Memoriam: William G. Sipple

All of us in the hospitality industry will miss the warm smile, good humor and practical insights of our colleague, Bill Sipple, who left us too soon. I am proud to have counted Bill as a good and long-time friend.

A seasoned hospitality executive, he was the consummate professional and all who worked with him in any capacity recognized the value of his leadership. It was always great working with Bill on any transaction, whichever side of the transaction he was on, but I always liked being on his side the best. His talents, focus, and energy made him one of the lights of our industry. He calmed rough waters, got deals done, and was just plain fun to spend time with.

Thanks for all you gave to our industry, Bill. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers.

The Sipple family suggests donations to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research in lieu of flowers.

Sipple 2

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Published on:

22 June 2015

US Supreme Court voids Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotel operators to turn over guest records on demand

In a 5-4 opinion rendered on June 22, 2015, the United States Supreme Court held that a Los Angeles municipal code provision violates the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizures. The invalidated LA Code provision requires hotel operators to make guest records available to the police upon request. This case may be significant because many cities throughout the country have similar laws, and they are now all constitutionally suspect. On the other hand, for reasons discussed below, most hotel operators will probably not care to challenge a records request, and there are expedient alternatives available to cities and police, including administrative subpoenas. See below to access the full Supreme Court opinion in City of Los Angeles v. Patel.

Read on to learn more about the Los Angeles City code’s  provisions, the history of the challenge in the District Court, appeals to the Ninth Circuit, and the US Supreme Court’s decision. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

5 January 2013

Hotel Lawyer on how new privacy law enforcement may affect your mobile apps used in marketing. Hotel lawyer Robert Braun has an alert that may save you an unnecessary class action or troublesome lawsuit (or enforcement action). Although, the California Attorney General has started the furor, the impact of this approach will affect any company who deals with even one consumer in the state of California, and thus is likely to affect most of the hospitality industry in the United States, and many companies outside the US.

Here is what it is all about.

Privacy on the Move
California Imposes New Requirements
on Mobile Apps

by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

Hotel companies are actively entering the mobile application space as a means of gaining market share and solidifying guest relations. In addition to online travel agents like HotelsbyMe.com, a number of brands including Omni, Choice and Starwood have developed mobile applications. However, as mobile applications gain popularity, hotel companies should consider how privacy and security laws will impact how they can use those applications.

For companies with operations in California, that issue was highlighted on December 6, 2012, when the California Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Delta Airlines for failing to include a privacy policy with a smartphone application. The lawsuit, the first of its kind, alleges that Delta violated California law requiring online services to “conspicuously post its privacy policy” by failing to include such a policy with its “Fly Delta” mobile application.

The California online privacy law

In 2004, California enacted the California Online Privacy Protection Act (“CalOPPA”). This law requires operators of websites and online services to “conspicuously post” privacy policies about the personal information that is collected, how the consumer can access or request changes to personal information, how the operator of the site will notify consumers of changes, and the effective date of the policy.

In the case of an online service, “conspicuously posting” a privacy policy requires that the policy be “reasonably accessible…for consumers of the online service.”

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Published on:

7 October 2012

Hotel Lawyer on hotels’ liability for failure to protect hotel guests personal identities

My partner Robert Braun advises hotel owners in a wide range of operational issues, including information management. Because of the ubiquitous use of credit cards by hotel guests during a stay, as well as the growing demand for WiFi availability, hotels have been increasingly targeted by identity thieves. In his article below, Bob explains how hotels’ liability for this new type of guest security has grown and what hotels can do to protect their guests’ identities.

Hotel Liability for Guest Information and Identity
What you need to know
by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

A version of this article was first published in the September 21, 2012 issue of Hotel Business and is reprinted with permission.

Not too long ago, keeping guest information safe was a fairly straightforward process – perhaps the most innovative development was providing an in-room safe for valuables. This approach made sense at the time, when guest security was a matter of securing people and their physical possessions.

The industry now recognizes that hotel guests have valuables to protect that go far beyond watches and wallets, or even laptops and iPads – – perhaps the most valuable information a hotel guest has is his or her identity, and unless a hotel actively safeguards it, those valuables are at risk. The ubiquity of credit card, wireless internet and other options, while essential to hotel operations, is also a source of insecurity.

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Published on:

24 August 2012

Hotel Lawyer on card processing fees.

The financial reforms following in the wake of the banking mess brought new regulations on the use and charges for credit and debit cards. There may be some benefits here for hoteliers, but there certainly are some decisions to make.

In addition to all the work he does on hotel management agreements and hotel franchise agreements, my partner Robert Braun represents a number of merchant card processors, banks and merchants in structuring credit card processing arrangements, both within the United States and internationally.

Today, he shares some of his insights on the recent legal changes in laws on card processing and the potential impact on the hotel industry.

Credit Card Fees and the Hospitality Industry
Impact of the Durbin Amendment
by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

Dodd-Frank affects hotels and other merchants

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 certainly sparked fierce debate about government regulation, consumer choice, innovation and entrepreneurship. The Durbin Amendment, a last-minute addition to the Dodd-Frank Act, drastically lowers swipe fees – the fee charged to merchants every time a customer pays with plastic – on debit cards issued by big banks, cutting into the banks’ revenue while, presumably, lowering costs for merchants and therefore consumers. The reduction in fees was significant: the Amendment reduced fees to 24 cents from a previous average of 43 cents, according to a Federal Reserve Board report.

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Published on:

17 July 2012

Hotels and restaurants are among many other businesses that monitor employees at work through video surveillance, and through employees’ use of company-issued computers and smart phones. While employers gain benefits such as reducing theft, decreasing liability and ensuring safety procedures are followed, employees can feel that this electronic monitoring violates their privacy. In his article below, Mark Adams, a litigator in JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®, shares with us how courts are ruling in lawsuits that deal with electronic surveillance of employees. He also gives employers advice on how to prevent these lawsuits from happening.

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Published on:

29 May 2012

HotelLawyer.com launches
Portal to knowledge for the hospitality industry
JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® hotel lawyers launch comprehensive hospitality resource
LOS ANGELES — May 29, 2012. Jim Butler, Chairman of the Global Hospitality Group® at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) announced today that the Group has officially launched HotelLawyer.com, a comprehensive resource for the hospitality industry.

“JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® is known for providing useful information, thoughtful analysis and a refreshing perspective to legal and business issues that affect the industry,” said Butler. “Our rich library of industry information is now organized in one convenient place — at HotelLawyer.com.”

On HotelLawyer.com, readers will find nearly 500 articles published over the years on the Hotel Law Blog, and the first two books in the We Wrote the Book™ series (The Lenders Handbook for Troubled Hotels and The HMA Handbook: Hotel Management Agreements for Owners, Developers, Investors and Lenders). These FREE resources continue to be accessed by thousands of readers each month.

Also available without cost at HotelLawyer.com are presentations from industry leaders, such as those given at JMBM’s 2012 Meet the Money® conference by Suzanne Mellen of HVS, Bruce Baltin of PKF Consulting, Greg Hartmann of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels and Alan Reay of Atlas Hospitality Group.

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Published on:

28 April 2009

Hospitality Lawyers on Innkeepers’ legal duties in dealing with Swine Flu and other infectious diseases. There is a lot of great information available about what Swine Flu is, how it is caused, and precautions people should take to avoid becoming infected. But there is very little guidance so far telling lodging operators what the legal and liability questions that apply to their operations.

That is why I turned to Jim Abrams, a valued senior member of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® and former President and CEO of the California Hotel & Lodging Association, for some help.

What are the legal ramifications of refusing guests who may appear ill or who have come from Mexico? What are the liabilities that an employer might face for not training and protecting employees? What practical steps should hoteliers be taking to deal with the outbreak? Here is what Jim told me.

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