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1. Is the property large enough to meet all your needs?

Chambered Nautilus

In their excitement, many people overlook the fact that the property they are considering is expected to be both their home and their business. It is essential to not only have a dedicated space for yourself, but one that you enjoy and are comfortable in. To determine space you need for your own living quarters, ask yourself:

  • How many people will be living in the owner’s quarters on a regular basis?
  • Will you need additional space to be able to accommodate visiting family or friends, or will you give up revenue from the B&B portion to accommodate them?
  • How many bedrooms do you need?
  • How many bathrooms do you need?
  • Where will you eat your meals?
  • How much “family” living space do you require? (Think indoors and out.)
  • What renovations/re-configurations, sound-proofing etc. will be required to this property to meet your personal and business needs?

Once you eliminate your personal space, does it leave you enough space to have the number of bed and breakfast bedrooms you budgeted for?

2. Is the property zoned in such a way that it can be used as a bed and breakfast?

Zoning varies depending on your location and the type of establishment you wish to run. Zoning typically covers anything that pertains to land use; it is a by-law and in some cases can be amended or changed. For example, on the street I am located on (in a seasonal tourist town) there are a variety of zoning types:

  • Commercial use
  • Residential use only
  • Home-based business (requires the owner to live on the property)
  • Seasonal business usage (may or may not require the owner to live on the property)

Needless to say, the type of zoning will also affect your tax rate.

Don’t take anyone’s word that the property is zoned for a B&B – insist on proof. If you wish to make changes in order to use the property as a B&B, find out what the requirements are ahead of time. The process to change the zoning can be a lengthy and expensive one – in the small town where I am located, if everything goes smoothly it can take a minimum of three months for a zoning by-law amendment, and there is no guarantee that you will get the amendment you need.

3. What else is required to make your bed and breakfast “legal”?

As with zoning, depending on where you are located, there may be requirements at the federal/national, provincial/state, regional/county and local levels. These can include permits, licenses, certificates and other regulations.

Typical requirements can include:

  • Business registration and licensing
  • Permits (signs, serving and selling alcohol, building if you are making changes to the property)
  • Taxation numbers
  • Training and certification (smart serve, food handling)
  • Inspections (fire, health & safety, B&B standards)

The list can be fairly lengthy, or it may not be an issue at all! My recommendation is to speak with local bed and breakfast owners – someone who has been through it and knows the local situation – to be able to determine what it can be like trying to own a bed and breakfast in the area you are considering. Listen to their stories and advice and weigh all that information against your dreams and desires.

Then, in order to make sure you have everything covered and positioned properly to meet your goals for owning a bed and breakfast, both long and short term, it is well worth the money to speak with a knowledgeable lawyer and accountant.

While making sure that the appropriate amount of space and compliance that is required for zoning, permits, and regulations may not seem fun, these factors will ensure that once you open for business you won’t have any sudden surprises that can close your bed and breakfast down.

About the author:
Susan Poole, The B&B Coach is the owner of the award-winning 40 Bay Street Bed & Breakfast. Her 3 step system has been created to help people figure out if owning a bed and breakfast can produce the income and fulfillment then envision. After completing the "How to turn your passions into a thriving bed and breakfast business" system, people will know how much income they can create, how much work it will be and what the risks are for them.


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