What does a hotel owe me for construction noise?

Sculpies/Shutterstock
Sculpies/Shutterstock
All Robin Rosner wanted was a little peace and quiet when she checked into the Sheraton Centre in Toronto recently.

All she got was chaos and noise — lots of noise.

“I awoke to find my message light blinking about 3 a.m. and learned that they would be power-washing the exterior of the building starting the next day,” she says. “They were suggesting people keep their blinds closed for privacy.”

And that wasn’t all.

“They also pointed out some construction work on one of the main streets might result in a detour,” she says. But the hotel failed to tell her that its garden wasn’t open, even though it was the middle of the summer, which was a problem for Rosner, because she was traveling with her dog.

“I enjoyed the garden and I had planned to spend time in it with my canine, who uses the garden. Of course, I clean up after her,” she says.

Closed garden. Street construction. Power-washing. Had Rosner known about all of these, would she have booked a room at the Sheraton?

No, she says.

But that’s the thing: the hotel didn’t tell her about it until she had checked in.

Is that right?

Well, Sheraton specifically guarantees a “peaceful, relaxing vacation” on its site, so it’s reasonable to assume you would actually get something resembling peace and quiet. In the past, the hotel would send her a note about a week before she checked in, reminding her that her room is nonrefundable and giving her a heads-up on any events at her hotel, including construction.

By the way, Rosner doesn’t expect a noise-free stay at Sheraton.

“I understand these tasks must be done,” she says. “But for leisure travelers, I just think we deserve to be informed in advance. Maybe if folks knew, they’d cancel. But that’s what I’m writing to ask you about. What’s fair to expect?”

I asked Sheraton to weigh in on this question. A representative emailed me back and admitted Rosner’s “disappointment is understandable.” I’m hopeful they will fix this for her, but I haven’t officially asked it to intervene.

I agree with Rosner that she should have been notified of the construction and facilities closure in advance — at the very least, in time for her to cancel her reservation. But that’s easier said than done. A hotel may not know about its facilities closure until the day it happens. In that case, a real-time resolution, like a voucher or an upgrade, might do the trick.

Construction and noise problems rank as one of the top ten hotel complaints. The last reader query I wrote about, which involved a Hotwire hotel, was only partially resolved, and only after the stay. Ideally, these issues should be fixed before they become an issue for guests.

I can push Sheraton to consider helping Rosner. But should I? Or is this just a lesson learned about staying in hotels in the big city?

Update: (2 p.m.) Just received a voice mail from Sheraton. This case has been resolved and Rosner is “very happy” according to a representative. I will try to get details.

Should I mediate Robin Rosner's case?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • wiseword

    I don’t understand the 3:00 a.m. phone call. Didn’t they know a little earlier? Or was this an emergency power washing?

  • emanon256

    Most hotels have a system where they can record a single message and push it out to the voice mail boxes in all of the hotel rooms. This does not cause the phone to ring, it just turns on the new message light. They typically push these out overnight so the guests can get their message first thing in the morning. The OP never mentioned a phone call, that that she awoke at 3am to find the message.

  • $16635417

    I’ll never attempt to come close Raven’s level of snarkiness. The Snarkerer’s Apprentice has a nice ring to it though! ;)

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Great advice. And my first thought was “I wonder if the garden was closed to repair damage done by past guests’ canines?” I love dogs, but a dog park and manicured waterfall gardens are far different things. Maybe it was a tiny dog that just liked to run around, but still.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    She lost me at the gripe about the power washing. That doesn’t take all that long and it has to be done sometime; she might as well have been griping that a vacuum was being used on premises during her stay.. I’d say, at best, her blinds would have needed to of been closed for a couple hours while the washing in that general area was completed.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    There was no phone call at 3:00 a.m. That’s when she saw the message light flashing. That’s an interesting part of the letter: She never says the phone actually rang and also never says her waking up at 3:00 a.m. was in any way the hotel’s fault, but she certainly gives off that impression.

  • Alex

    I don’t understand why people don’t address these types of concerns while they are at the hotel. Had she asked, it’s possible she could have been moved to a different floor that might have already been pressure-washed. And, perhaps she could have been granted access to a small portion of the garden.

    There are plenty of creative ways to solve problems. It’s unfortunate she didn’t consult the hotel staff. After reading about the street construction in some of the comments, I’d bet good money that managers at this hotel have successfully resolved plenty of noise complaints.

  • y_p_w

    I’ve stayed in several hotels or motels in the last year with construction issues. However, these were clearly known and disclosed by the hotel. One was a complete rebuilding of the entrance of the Hilton Anaheim that links the hotel to the convention center. It was disclosed when I booked the room and before I had a chance to back out. Another I found out that the lobby wasn’t completed by looking at reviews, but it wasn’t exactly disclosed when I booked it. I knew, got a good rate, and didn’t worry too much about it. When we got there the lobby was still under construction (looked like it would be nice after completion) and the temporary lobby was a lectern in the back entrance. They had a note that by signing for acceptance of a room meant acknowledging the construction issues, including possible construction noise between 8 AM and 4 PM (we were there on a weekend so no construction). They did allow anyone to back out of a reservation even if it was past the normal cancellation cutoff, so that was something in their favor. Still – I don’t know what to think that they would have sprung that on someone who didn’t do any research before booking. In any case, our stay was fine, but you’d think it was a horrible place to stay by several of the reviews. Our room wasn’t perfect. It looked like someone abused the sink, but everything worked.

    Now I’m not sure about power washing or anything that might be noisy. Every hotel I’ve been to in the last year has housekeeping, including vacuuming using commercial equipment (i.e. it’s gonna be loud).

  • Annie M

    I am glad this was resolved but had it not been I would have said you should intervene. Perhaps just your phone call allowed the dispute to be resolved without you. However, there were just too many issues with this one reservation that I would have advised you to advocate for. Power washing for a day – not a big deal, but the garden being closed, the construction noise, etc. – too many things the hotel should have told the guest about and allowed her to move to another hotel.

  • MarkKelling

    I have stayed in many hotels and resorts where there was ongoing construction (refurbishing rooms, regular painting in hallways, repainting the exterior, even jackhammering at the pool). All was done during hours that most guest should be awake. Very little of it was intrusive enough that I even noticed. I have stayed at hotels where certain facilities were closed. In either case, sometimes I was informed about it, sometimes I was not. I will say that every hotel I stayed at where a major amenity, like the pool or the spa, was to be closed during my stay I was notified either when making my reservation or in advance of my arrival.

    I think it is unrealistic to book a stay at a hotel in the middle of the city and expect perfect quiet and relaxation. Cities are noisy. On the other hand, if this was a resort in the wilderness surrounded by acres of forest and there was construction noise, then I would be upset.

    Nothing this person encountered was the fault of the hotel other than the garden area being closed. While I feel that since this was an important amenity to the OP, she should have received an upgraded room or a free meal to compensate for this. And maybe advance notification. If the notification really wasn’t provided, the hotel should do a better job.

    Glad the OP got a satisfactory resolution.

  • TMMao

    So how does one “clean up” after their dog urinates in the garden?

  • TMMao

    Once had a guest that complained because the lawn was being mowed outside her room at 10am. She complained again two days later when it was mowed at 2pm. When the manager asked her what would be a convenient time to schedule the mowing outside her room, her reply was “not during her stay.”