Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January
The Law & the Planner
BY JONATHAN HOWE
Rebate Disclosure&Home Office Concerns
M&C’s legal columnist responds to readers’
Following are answers to readers’ legal questions. If you
have a question that may be considered for future publication in
M&C, please e-mail your concern to firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret all
questions cannot be answered.
Q: I am a planner for a nonprofit organization. We routinely add
a rebate to our room rates, which is applied to our master account.
We are about to start disclosing this information on our
registration materials. Although we have no hesitation doing this,
we must first inform our board of the rebates. Do you have any idea
where I can find information to support the practice of adding
rebates to rates? We would like to show our board that this is
common and that it is not deceptive if disclosed.
Public Housing Authorities Directors Association
A: You can assure your board (and supply them with this column)
that rebates, are indeed, common. Furthermore, over the past year
many hotels have begun demanding that meeting planners disclose to
their organizations, attendees and clients the fact that a rebate
will be paid. The primary concern for most planners is informing
the person who actually is paying the bill just what that bill
It’s best to be very clear about how rebates will be used. Will
the cash go to the sponsor to cover meeting expenses? Is it meant
to defray costs of transportation to and from the convention
center? Will it be used for future educational purposes?
A statement noted in registration and on-site collateral
materials should read something like: “A portion of your room rate
is being used to defray the cost of this meeting.” Also, if there
is to be a rebate, be sure the facility contract is clear as to how
the rebate will be paid or credited and what disclosure must be
Q: I plan events for a group of real estate offices and work as
an independent contractor out of a home office. Since those offices
don’t have a headquarters, hotels use my home address for
correspondence purposes. Am I incurring any liability because of
this? Do you have any alternative solutions?
A: The law would not impose any kind of liability on the basis
of where mail is sent. If you feel uncomfortable, however, you
could use a post office box for correspondence. You should also
have separate e-mail and fax numbers from the residence’s numbers.
That will help create a definitive line between your business and
your home. Working out of your home brings up several other issues
you should look into before converting that spare room. You may
live where local zoning laws prohibit business or trade from being
conducted in a residential area. Additionally, be sure you have
appropriate local business licenses.
It’s also wise to check your homeowner’s insurance. It may not
cover a home office or, for that matter, your business. It’s better
to have separate insurance for business that includes comprehensive
general liability and umbrella coverage (what’s not covered
elsewhere is covered here), not to mention workers’ compensation,
should you bring someone in to help you. The key here is to have an
insurance agent who understands what you do.
Also, when you establish a home office, you need to determine
the form the business will take. Are you the sole proprietor? Are
you in a partnership? Or is your spare room an outpost of a
corporation or association? In the first two instances, start-up
expenses, overhead, hiring and insurance are all on your head. But
if you have just relocated your office to your home but are still
employed by a larger entity, be sure to get details in writing
about who pays for what. For instance, will your employer be paying
your phone bill, “rent” for your office and equipment costs? Will
the employer be involved in your personnel decisions?
Be sure to outline a communication policy, including how often
you will be in the main office, what times you will be available at
home and how you will report your progress to your superiors.
Jonathan T. Howe, Esq., is
a senior partner in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., law firm of
Howe & Hutton, Ltd., which specializes in meetings, travel and
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