By Jim Butler and the Global Hospitality Group®
Hotel Lawyers | Authors of www.HotelLawBlog.com
7 March 2014
Comfort letters are more important than ever as franchising continues to be a dominant form of branding hotels. As many of our recent articles have noted, there has been a sea change in the hotel world. Franchise agreements have become the dominant means of branding most hotels in the US, except for a few of the most upscale and luxury brands.
This popularity of franchising has made comfort letters more important than ever simply by the predominance of the franchise model, and lender’s desire to get certain protections that they feel comfort letters offer.
In today’s article, my partner, hotel lawyer Robert Braun, explains what comfort letters are and the kind of provisions they usually contain.
Comfort Letters – Comfort for Whom?
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer
If you are buying, building or refinancing a hotel, you’ll almost certainly be looking to a bank or other lender to finance the hotel, and when you do, you’ll need to negotiate dozens of documents, some long, some short, but all of them necessary to get your loan. In other articles, we have talked about the importance of subordination, non-disturbance and attornment agreements (SNDAs). SNDAs are used in the context of a hotel management agreement (HMA) — usually only long-term branded HMAs — to define the rights of lenders vis a vis the hotel operator in the event of the owner’s/borrower’s loan default, breach of the HMA, foreclosure by the lender or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.
But what about franchised hotels? Lenders who take security in a franchised property will want a “comfort letter,” an agreement between the lender and the franchisor that defines the rights of lenders and franchisors if the hotel owner defaults on its loan obligations, the franchise agreement or other related arrangements. In other words, lenders seek SNDAs to deal with their rights and obligations with respect to HMAs. They use comfort letters to deal with their rights with respect to franchise agreements.