Knowing how-to start a bed and breakfast can be very confusing!

In many smaller towns (and even some larger urban cities), many bed and breakfasts got started because of special events that brought in a sudden influx of people needing short-term accommodation (think Mardi Gras in New Orleans, The Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta Georgia) – even here in my little town was/is a music festival that was the impetus for many people to consider starting a bed and breakfast.  It has led to a rise in vacation rentals and AirBnBs – most of whom do not conform to the same zoning regulations, fire inspections, food preparation requirements, liability issues, and most likely do not pay taxes on the revenue they generate.

I am frequently asked: “Will getting the zoning, licenses, permits and registration for my business be a problem? “

From my experience, there is no cookie cutter answer that works everywhere.  However, the same issues often crop up – so if you are aware of them, and plan for them right from the beginning, they may not become a huge problem:

Zoning by-laws – may limit the number of B&Bs or accommadators in a municipality, the use of a property for commercial purposes, parking requirements and other issues.  (Often getting your neighbours on-side first will help tremendously when it comes time for your town council to make any amendments required.)

Licenses might include – Business license, food and/or liquor sales license.

Permits may include – vendor and building permits (if you are making any changes to the property), food preparation and service, health and safety.

Regulations relating to – zoning by-laws, government taxes, accommodating those with disabilities, health, fire, water and sanitation, food preparation requirements, signage, privacy policies.

Insurance – beside standard home and auto insurance you require additional liability insurance, fire, theft and dishonesty. I cannot emphasize enough how essential it is to contact your current insurer to advise them of your decision to operate a B&B.  Not all insurers provide coverage under a homeowner’s policy for bed and breakfasts; however, there are insurance brokers who specialize in that type of coverage – often at a lesser price than a regular policy would cost.

Accommodations Ratings – Canada Select covers most Canadian provinces; in Ontario FOBBA – the provincial association – is recognized as the rating of choice.  Your local association may also be able to provide a rating. Ratings may or may not be mandatory in your location.

As mentioned earlier, there is no uniformity across municipalities as to the zoning, licenses, permits and or ratings for a bed and breakfast business.  I would suggest that zoning be the first place to start with determining whether you can even consider opening a b and b in the location you’ve chosen.

Don’t forget that most licenses and permits cost money – and the fees may vary at start-up and as on-going costs.  My suggestion is to talk to established B&Bs in your area to find out what applies in your municipality, and what the timeframes for applying and receiving approvals can be expected.

If you’re still not sure that running a bed and breakfast is the right job for you, I can help.  I offer “Design Your Dream B&B System, a 4-step program that helps you determine how to balance the amount of income generated with the personal fulfillment you are seeking.


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