Running a B&B can be a great way of making money out of your home, particularly if you live in a popular tourist destination or an area where there’s a regular flow of business travellers. But before you start planning what to call your new business, and making the ‘fun’ decisions like whether to go for chintzy or chic décor, there are several important legal factors worth considering.
One of the first things you need to be aware of when you’re planning how to start a bed and breakfast in your home is that you probably need to obtain planning permission from your local District or Borough Council, as this may be regarded as a ‘change of use’ for your property. When deciding whether or not to grant this, the planning committee may take into account if there are already a number of other B&Bs operating in your area.
You may also need to get planning permission if you want to do any kind of building work to convert a residential property to a B&B. Even if the work doesn’t require planning permission it may need building regulations approval. This can apply to non-structural projects such as installing an extra bathroom or adding radiators. If these works are carried out by a tradesman on the government’s Competent Persons Register, you won’t need to apply for ‘building regs’ approval yourself, though.
Setting up a B&B means that your home changes from being a purely residential property to being business premises and this means you need to comply with fire safety legislation. This involves carrying out a fire risk assessment to identify whether there are any actions you need to carry out to help prevent fires and also what you need to do to keep you and your guests safe. You can either do this yourself or use a professional assessor.
Different regulations apply depending on the size of your property and the number of guests you’re able to accommodate, but generally you should expect to have to install things like fire alarms and fire extinguishers, and put up Fire Action notices in bedrooms as well as Fire Exit signs where appropriate.
Some B&B owners may need to replace existing internal doors with fire doors (which include mechanisms that close the door automatically and are of a particular construction) for given locations, and emergency lighting.
Before opening a bed and breakfast you should also make sure that all of your furnishings, such as mattresses, and upholstered chairs and sofas, conform to current fire regulations too, and if your property has any gas appliances you must have a gas safety check carried out every year.
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Terms and conditions
When setting up a bed and breakfast it’s a good idea to draw up a set of Terms and Conditions for your guests which cover areas such as:
- Any deposits that are required on booking.
- Your cancellation and refund policy.
- Earliest arrival and latest departure times.
- Which payment methods you accept.
- Whether pets are welcome.
- Whether smoking is permitted in bedrooms (it is forbidden by law in shared public spaces) any charges relating to breach of this such as the cost of cleaning carpets.
Because you’re providing your guests with breakfast you must register with your local Environmental Health Officer who will arrange for your premises to be inspected.
When starting a B&B you need to prepare for this inspection by making sure that your kitchen is suitably designed and equipped for implementing safe working practices. This means following good health and hygiene practices, with a particular focus on avoiding cross contamination (i.e. keeping raw meat separated from cooked food items to prevent food poisoning). Your kitchen also needs to be structurally safe, with surfaces that are easy to keep clean. This applies to walls, floors, units and all food preparation areas which should be smooth, non-absorbent and wipe-clean. Catering kitchens must be well lit and well ventilated, with constant supplies of hot water and cold, drinkable water.
Make sure you provide suitable hand washing facilities to enable you (or your staff) to decontaminate your hands before/after handling raw meat and whenever else as required. A plentiful supply of antibacterial soap located prominently next to a hand washbasin is required. Clothing in the kitchen must be clean, and should ideally take the form of chef's whites/blacks, and loose or long hair is best covered by caps or hairnets.
Food storage is a vital part of keeping your kitchen safe, particularly with high-risk food types such as cooked meat. Everything in your refrigerator needs to be stored appropriately, with everything suitably covered by cling-film or in a sealable lidded container. Raw meat needs to be kept at the bottom of the fridge to avoid cross contamination through drips or leakage. High risk foods are required to be refrigerated at temperatures of 8°C or lower by law. You must keep written records of your food safety management system, such as temperature check-sheets and day-dotting, though the extent to which you need to implement this depends on the size of your business and the number of customers you serve. Further advice and implementable packs are available from the Food Standards Agency website.
People with sickness and diarrhoea must not handle food until they are fully recovered. Frozen foods must always be defrosted in the fridge and not on a counter overnight. You are advised to store eggs in the fridge and you should always keep an eye out for signs of pest infestation (droppings or teeth marks in packaging and the like). If you spot signs of pests, it is vital that you take immediate action to take care of them and it is a good idea to employ proactive preventative measures and your kitchen should be designed in such a way as to reduce the opportunity for pest access. Keep pets out of the kitchen at all times, and if your washing machine is in your kitchen, only use it outside food service hours.
Although it’s not necessary for you to get a formal food hygiene qualification, you may find that doing some training is useful when you are setting up a bed and breakfast. You can easily take a Food Hygiene Certificate course online, and most are very reasonably priced.
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