David Joyson

Written by

David Joyson

Home Insurance Expert & Customer Champion

Sophie Kamkar

Reviewed by

Sophie Kamkar

Content Marketing Manager

Less than 1 minute

Updated: 12 Feb 2024

There are a number of legal issues you need to be aware of if you are thinking about starting your own bed and breakfast. These are not just limited to the obvious (such as having appropriate guest house insurance, public/employers liability insurance and health and safety responsibilities), but also the legal issues you might encounter on a day-to-day basis during the normal operation of your business.

Terms and Conditions

Your terms and conditions are an important part of your business operation and must be developed to protect your interests without interfering with the statutory rights of your guests.


You need to decide on a policy for deposits and whether or not they are refundable for any reason. Deposits are not usually refundable at all within a fortnight of the booked date of arrival, perhaps operating on a sliding-scale for cancellations with more advanced notice. If you only take a partial deposit and your guest cancels without giving notice, then the onus will be on you to persuade them to pay the rest.


Assuming you made your terms and conditions about deposits abundantly clear to your guests at the time of booking (either by sending them a written copy by post or email, or by publishing them oin your website) then your legal position for obtaining an outstanding balance, both from ‘no shows’ and guests who leave without paying, is quite strong, but you may have to take legal action to recover the debt. If this is the situation you find yourself in, you should always seek professional legal advice. It often comes down to a business decision as to whether going to a small claims court is in your best interests or whether it could ultimately do you more harm than good.

Bad behaviour

When it comes to guests behaving badly, it might become necessary for you to call the police to eject them on your behalf. You should only use this action as a last resort or if you fear for your safety or the safety of others. It is best to resolve a matter amicably wherever possible, but there are occasions where you may have no choice left but to defer matters to the relevant authorities. If you can, it might be better to keep the matter as discreet as possible, particularly if you have other guests in residence at the time.

Malicious damage 

If guests leave the accommodation in a damaged/unacceptably soiled state and you are unable to convince them to pay what they owe, your only likely recourse might be legal action. Again, there are a number of considerations you will have to make when contemplating suing; weighing the time and money it will take to see a case through against the potential reimbursement you might obtain.

Smoking regulations

It is illegal to smoke in enclosed public spaces (which include communial rooms and corridors, but not guests’ bedrooms). You have a legal obligation to make it clear where smoking cannot take place by displaying appropriate signage. If you do not want to permit smoking in bedrooms, then signs must be displayed within each bedroom.