3 Things You Need to Know About B&B Permits and Regulations

Almost daily I receive questions from people about their local regulations, by-laws and permits and where to find government funding for a bed and breakfast.

While I can provide you with a checklist of all the items you need to review at a local level, there is no way I can research and keep track of all the various requirements, although I wish I could!

Here are the three things you need to know

  1. Depending on the country you live in, there may be requirements at the federal/national, provincial/state, regional/county and local levels.

  • in Canada, if you generate more than $30,000 in revenue from your bed and breakfast, you are required to charge federal taxes.  You will also be involved with this level of government if you have employees
  • Depending on the province you live in, the number of rooms you have, whether your province collects a sales tax and/or whether the provincial and federal taxes are “harmonized” (i.e. charged collectively rather than individually) can be required
  • Provincial regulations also include Business Name registration and govern building codes (if you are doing any renovations or building a new home), health and safety (i.e. food handling certificates)
  • In Ontario, there are some cities (and soon to be regional areas) that will require you to add on Destination Marketing Fees (DMF), also known as VAT or value added tax (as it is known as in most European countries)
  • Local governments tend to be responsible for items like signage, zoning and parking
  1. Where to look for the information and help you might be able receive for starting your bed and breakfast business depends on where you live. 

Take a look at the chart where I have collected just some of the information available for owning your own bed and breakfast business:


 Resources available for businesses

 6000 Call someone at Town Hall with questions; 2 links for business development
 18300  BizPal*, links to downloadable studies done on local business development
 160275  BizPal*, 311**, Licenses & Permits + checklist of documentation required
 2.5 mil separate web site, 311**, free seminars & training, connections with Tourism Toronto, links to economic development sites
 102500  BizPal*, 311**, link for home based business and Business Info Centre
 117300  BizPal*, 311**, link for Inspections & permits
 73000  Called “Developmental Services”, gives telephone number to call
 620000  separate web site to help start, grow or green business

*BizPal is a collaboration between the many levels of government (except Quebec and Nunavut and some municipalities) to provide you with a list of permits and licenses that may be required to start a business in Canada.  It provides you with a series of questions on the type of business you are planning and BizPal will generate a list of permits and licenses from all levels of government that may be required, along with basic information on each one along with links to more information.  Failure to comply with permit and license regulations could result in fines.  While BizPal is free, there are fees required to purchase the specific permits and licenses you may require.

**311 is the phone number to learn more about supports and services in your local community.

As you can see, the larger the center, the greater the number of services available to you.  In smaller towns and villages, while the information isn’t as readily available on-line, it will require additional work on your part to find the right people to cover all the bases. (The good point about this approach is that you are actually networking and can start getting the word out that you are going to start a bed and breakfast!)

  1. Here are my suggestions for additional sources of information that will help you get your bed and breakfast business started:

  • Your provincial/state, regional and/or local bed and breakfast associations
  • Other bed and breakfast owners
  • Chamber of Commerce or local tourism board
  • Local business development centres – depending on the size of your community these centres might be located within another organization associated with local employment initiatives (such as the YMCA here in Parry Sound), through provincial/state web sites and business networking groups.

Complying with the requirements for running a bed and breakfast business is essential.

As much as I would love to be able to have all the information available for each and every area as you can see, it would be impossible.   Your best bet is to:

  • Develop a local mentor who can guide you through the requirements
  • Don’t wait until you are ready to open your doors to do your research, and
  • Make sure you budget for all the licenses and permits and keep track of the renewal dates to ensure you are always in compliance.

Starting a bed and breakfast is a lot more than making your bedrooms look pretty and throwing out a sign.  But the returns you get are definitely worth it!

In order to apply for your permits and register your property, you need to get clear on the type of bed and breakfast you are planning to open.  To help you get clear, clarify your vision using the Design Your Dream B&B Mini-course.

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