So You Want to Open a B & B
Often we have clients that inquire on or state an interest in coming to the area and opening/running a B & B. With this in mind, here are some good tips to keep in mind.
You can host interesting visitors from around the world, use your cooking and decorating skills, and make money doing it. Your bed and breakfast can bring tremendous enjoyment to many travelers and a great deal of satisfaction to you.
The information below has been gleaned from various sources involved in running Ontario B & B’s. Local and municipal laws may differ. By contacting the association of B & B’s called FOBBA (Federation of B & B Association) they will provide you with specific guidelines to the area you wish to open your B & B. You can find them at
However the guidelines below are general and apply to most establishments that list themselves as B & B’s. Whatever type and size of B & B you wish to offer is entirely up to your budget and skill level of running an establishment that is predominantly for tourists (who can often be demanding). Be prepared to begin an adventure in Customer Service that will be demanding and taxing, but ultimately quite rewarding.
Code of Ethics
- All Bed and Breakfast hosts are required to provide:
- a high standard of cleanliness
- good quality furnishings and linens in guest rooms
- an adequate number of bathrooms with sufficient hot water and high quality fixtures
- a breakfast of consistently high quality which is included in the room rate (breakfast can be ‘Continental’ or a ‘Full Breakfast’, however whatever you decide must be clearly indicated at the time of reservation and in any advertising you will be doing. Guests want and need to know upfront what their accommodation dollar includes.
- Friendly guidance and assistance to guests about local attractions and places of interest
- All hosts shall have a reasonable deposit and cancellation policy.
- All hosts are required to carry adequate liability insurance. Contact your personal insurance company for your home and advise them of your plans.
- All hosts shall comply with the Ontario Human Rights Code. Be aware that when you open your home to the public, you are leaving any prejudices behind. Everyone willing to pay needs to be welcomed. The only exception would be if you decide to deny smokers, pets, children and teenagers. Once again this needs to be well advertised in your literature and at the time of reservation. Your advertisements could read something to the effect of: Adults Only. No pets. No Children. No Smokers. Etc.
- All hosts shall provide accommodation, services and meals consistent with their own advertising.
- All hosts shall respond to guest complaints either verbally or in writing. Guests are quick to report any discrepancies and false advertising to various B&B associations.
- All hosts agree to confer with the Complaints Committee of FOBBA regarding resolution of complaints.
- All hosts agree to implement any recommendation of the complaints committee.
- Failure to implement the recommendations of the Complaints Committee will result in withdrawal of the Federation Certificate of Membership.
Further directives provide a standard for homeowners who want to operate a Bed & Breakfast business in their home.
A potable (safe) water supply must be available throughout the home in adequate quantities for personal and guest use.
It is recommended that homes using well water have their water tested at least three times per year for bacterial contamination. Water test bottles are available at your Health Unit or Public Health Laboratory.
Homes must be serviced by an approved sewage disposal system, either municipal or private (e.g. septic tank and leaching bed).
Homeowners should be aware that the increased effluent (waste water) generated by guests could cause private sewage systems to malfunction. In some cases it may be necessary to upgrade existing private sewage systems.
Your area public health inspector will be able to give you information about septic system requirements.
The home should be clean, sound, in good repair, and should not permit access of insects or rodents. Windows should be screened.
Beds for guest use should be clean and in good repair. Bed linens should be changed after use by each guest or every two to three days for those who stay longer. In the name of ‘Guest Service’ you may want to ask guests who are staying longer if changing their linens every 3 days is acceptable. Many hotels and resorts are now offering this type of linen service in order to conserve energy and water. Each guest should be given a separate set of towels and face cloths. These should be changed/washed daily. Guest rooms should have adequate heat and ventilation at all times.
Bathrooms must be kept clean with no mould growth around the tub or shower. The bathtub should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Liquid soap in a dispenser (not bar soap) should be supplied in bathrooms for guest use. Individual drinking glasses for guest use should be supplied in each room.
Kitchen/Food Preparation Area
Bed & Breakfast establishments prepare foods only for guests who are temporarily staying in the home. While a separate kitchen in compliance with the Ontario Food Premises Regulation is not required, certain steps should be followed to ensure that food served to guests is safe to eat. Once again FOBBA can provide with a working Health Info Sheet on ‘Safe Food Handling’. Standards on how we normally deal with food and the requirements for paying guests DO vary.
Dishes and cooking utensils should be washed, rinsed, and sanitized after every use. They can be sanitized by adding about one teaspoon of household bleach to a sink full of water. Air drying is recommended.
Family pets should be kept out of the kitchen during meal preparation. All cats and dogs must be vaccinated annually against rabies.
Lodging is provided for not more than three rental rooms.
1. Lodging rooms do not have both kitchen and bathroom facilities for
exclusive use of individual occupants.
2. A working smoke alarm is required for each floor level, including the basement and can be battery or electrically operated.
3. A working smoke alarm shall be installed in all sleeping rooms and can be
battery or electrically operated.
4. Provide a 2A 10BC rated portable fire extinguisher for each floor level and in the kitchen.
5. A reasonable level of fire safety must be provided, for example,
- waste combustible materials must not be allowed to accumulate
- no abuse of extension cords
Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, must not be stored inside the building. Also, keep in mind that an inspection by an official fire department may be required.
Questions to ask yourself:
Aside from the ‘official’ standards discussed above, below are some important questions you need to ask yourself before you decide to take the plunge into B & B proprietorship.
- Do I (really) like people?
- Will I enjoy strangers in my home, using my personal possessions?
- Do I want/really enjoy cooking for other people? Variety in menus will be necessary, especially for guests staying more than 1 night.
- Do I enjoy the diversities in people?
- Will I get frustrated at staying home and being available almost all the time (vacations for B & B operators are usually in off-seasons)?
- How do I feel about cleaning up after strangers?
- Am I able to play tour guide (chatting with) my guests?
- Will you be okay with getting up early to prepare breakfast?
- Is my home conducive to my own private area, where guests have no access?
- Your home needs to be unlocked for the guests to come and go or someone needs to be in the home at all times!
- Strangers in your home offer an element of risk, how will you feel if something is broken or stolen (you may not be able to prove who the culprit was)?
- What is my family life like now, can I deal with my children and pets and guests in my home?
- What will be the start up costs? Any renovations, purchase of supplies (new linens) etc. It will take time to recoup any start-up costs.
- Is my home in a desirable area, will it bring in paying guests
- Do you have realistic expectations?
B & B’s are not a get rich quick venture. They are demanding and time consuming, whatever you decide! Do your homework. Get on the internet, read books and talk to other people who have or are currently running a B & B. There’s nothing like being well prepared in order for your entrepreneurial venture into the world of B & B to be the great success you want it to be.
In Ontario, you may voluntarily decide to participate in the Canada Select Accommodation Rating Program.
What the star system indicates: It’s the same star system as resorts and hotels province wide.
Modest accommodations meeting the Canada Select standards of cleanliness, comfort and safety.
Half stars are awarded to properties whose overall quality of facilities exceeds their specific category star rating.
Moderate accommodations with additional facilities and some amenities.
Above average accommodations, with a greater range of facilities, guest amenities and services available.
Luxurious properties. Among the very best in the country in terms of their outstanding facilities, amenities and guest services provided.