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Legal Aspects of Running a Bed and Breakfast

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 21 Feb 2020 | comments*Discuss
Legal Aspects Of Running A Bed And Breakfast

Many of the areas where there are legal aspects to running a B&B are covered in separate articles in this section, such as insurance and liability, the business structure and health and safety. There are other areas where you need to stay abreast of the law and those are covered here.

Our Advice – Put Solid Terms and Conditions in Place

It's important to make sure that guests are aware of your terms and conditions surrounding bookings. Decide on a policy for deposits and whether they can be returned, probably not if a guest cancels within a fortnight of their arrival, ten per cent if they cancel three months before, and a range of figures in between these too. If a guest cancels the week before and you only took a ten percent deposit, then you will need to persuade them to pay the rest.

Legally you're on very strong ground here on paper, particularly if you posted your terms and conditions to them once the booking was made. The reality is that if they don't pay then you would have to take legal action to get the money back. Always take legal advice before doing this but it is likely that it will come down to whether or not you think it's worth the time and aggravation to get the money back, which is basically a business decision. If it's going to get in the way of running a successful business then it may be wiser to back down and write off the loss.

Guests Behaving Badly or Running Off

If guests behave badly then you may have to call the police to eject them. Obviously it's best to try and sort it out before it get's to this point, but if that doesn't work, you will have to call the police, that's the only legal recourse that you have. Try and keep the action discreet and away from other guests if possible.

If guests have caused damage to the room or facilities, or perhaps run off without paying, and you cannot get them to repay you, then again the legal advice will be to sue. Consider first whether taking legal action might get in the way of running a B&B or perhaps might damage your reputation. Weigh up the time and money aspect against the cost to the business of the damage before proceeding.

Aspects of Small Claims

If the advice you receive is that you should sue to get your money back, for relatively low amounts (currently under £5,000), a claim can be pursued through the small claims court. Details of this can be found on government websites.

It can be done without legal advice as the process is fairly simple, but it might still be worth taking that advice to make sure you're on solid ground before submitting a claim. The legal advice may also allow you to claim back more in damages than you had considered possible as they will know the system better than you.

Ensure Customers Understand Your Terms

The main thing to remember with anything like this is that you must have made the situation completely clear to whoever it is who is causing the problem. So make sure that people who answer the phone and take bookings are aware of things they must say before taking the booking and follow up with copies of your terms and conditions in writing.

For behaviour, make sure there is an acceptable behaviour policy on display somewhere, perhaps on the wall of the room with the fire regulation notices, or in a small booklet in the room along with other information. It's not a good idea to draw attention to a long list of rules and regulations but make sure people are aware without pushing it in their faces and you should be covered.

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I'm looking for funding four bed and breakfast I'm buying it without a mortgage that because I'm not got much experience I'm struggling to find £60,000 to refurb
Gin - 21-Feb-20 @ 8:22 PM
I have been a B&B owner for over 6 years now and I am appauled at AirB&B for accepting anyone who wishes to rent a room for the night. I have nothing against a little healthy competition but why do i need to follow all of the regulations like: Health & Safety, Fire Safety, Accessability, Food Hygiene etc etc and anyone wanting to open up as an AirB&B can do without any of these? I would also like to see pressure on the government to reduce the VAT threshhold. It currently stands at around 86,000 which is crazy. My B&B has 7 letting rooms and there are other B&BS in the area with more rooms and a higher occupancy and stay under the threshhold. This is really annoying. For anybody out there looking to start up in the B&B trade, here is some advice.... think long and hard about it, do your homework, run a B&B for a week, stay in as many B&Bs as possible, think very hard about it again and then think about doing something else. :-)
fishypro - 21-Aug-19 @ 12:26 PM
Can a single woman running a b and b alone refuse single men as guests?
lindbows - 4-Aug-19 @ 8:51 PM
Webooked a weeks holiday at the 'Hillsdale guest house in Ambleside' week commencing 08/07/2019. Paid £360 for the five days. Unfortunately the week previous I damaged my knee and would not be able to go. Contacted the owner and asked if the money paid could be held over for another holiday later in the year. They refused point blank. Stating they would be out of pocket if they could no relet the room. If nobody booked that room they would still be out of pocket. We are both 78 years of age, and find this a blow against OAP's. Desmon Francis
Des - 8-Jul-19 @ 1:12 PM
i have a B & B do i need to register with local authority
Louise - 5-Jul-19 @ 11:18 PM
I have a website advertising b&b in maximum 2 rooms but only take guests very, very occasionally as we are retired. Usually visiting students or teachers. Local council have told me I am classified as a business and have served Statutory Notice that we must have official waste disposal certificates or take down our website.As we only have occasional guests for 2 or 3 days every other month maximum are the Council correct? Only 2 of us live here and any guest only involves a few tea bags.
Bea - 23-Aug-18 @ 9:02 AM
I have one spare room, with shared bathroom, and would like to start doing B&B. With possible evening meals as well.I have a conservatory and garden wuth amazing views, where when warm people could eat or sit. As well as dining room. What are the legalitys that have to be done before starting this project? Many thanks.
Andy - 12-Aug-18 @ 11:27 AM
Hi, me and my partner have sold our house and about to buy a B&B. We can get a mortgage from two banks but they both want to do commercial mortgages which the rate is higher. Any advice if it is possible to get a personal mortgage as we will also be living in the property.
Alan - 14-Dec-17 @ 9:44 AM
Linda - Your Question:
Hello, we would like to start bed and breakfast but don't have time to cook for the guests in the morning. The annex has its own kitchen where I could leave cereal, bread, eggs etc. for the guests to prepare themselves. Would this still legally be classed as B&B? Thank you!

Our Response:
No it's classed as self catering accommodation in this case.
StartABedAndBreakfast - 3-Nov-17 @ 2:09 PM
Hello, we would like to start bed and breakfast but don't have time to cook for the guests in the morning. The annex has its own kitchen where I could leave cereal, bread, eggs etc. for the guests to prepare themselves. Would this still legally be classed as B&B? Thank you!
Linda - 2-Nov-17 @ 8:39 PM
hello I run a B& B in the Midlands and the local council wish to charge over £1000 per room as I have had long term guests staying with me could you let me know what the ruling is over length of stay please thanks
jim - 20-Oct-17 @ 12:28 PM
I ran a Guest House Meadowlands from 1988to end of 2008 family circumstances I closed it down now I wish to reopen with small B&B. Was a Director of Shrewbury Tourism with Michael Connor he lives in Willow House. We did this for many years I think for me about 25 years altogether. I used to help with setting up B&Bs and Guest Houses,I am aware things have changed. I did my Hygiene Exams Intermediate. But now I am starting anew and really need to know how to start up again I was with the English Tourist Board. But now I am starting again. Can you advise who I need to contact I did think of Sykes B&B.
Jennie Wren - 20-Sep-17 @ 4:32 PM
Hi:we are considering running a small scale B&B by converting a back building to include 5 rooms.We have a courtyard which can take 4 cars and two spaces (off road) at the front.Would parking be an issue? Also, our neighbour may not be too happy with this and although we will put in place strict controls over noise, time of arrival and departure of guests, etc I anticipate there will be some objections.We live in a small village and think this would bring visitors and extra money into the community, something which is needed for the village to thrive.If issues such as noise, etc are resolved I assume an objection from one person would not mean we cannot proceed at all but I would be grateful for any experience or advice in this matter.Talking to our neighbour prior to applying for change of use is unfortunately not an option..... Thanks !!
Eden3031 - 10-Jun-17 @ 7:39 PM
Hi. We are planning to do b&b only with 2 bedrooms. In our 4 bed house. Do we need permission. I already have insurance.
P - 8-Feb-17 @ 7:10 PM
If I'm doing a long term let on a B and B basis, how do I do it please in order to make sure the customers leave on the agreed date. Do they have any tenancy rights Many thanks
Lennie - 1-Feb-17 @ 8:07 PM
B&Bdoctor - Your Question:
Recently contacted by PRS demanding that I buy a licence because we have TV in the 6 rooms of our B&B despite already having a TV licence good for 15 rooms; there are no radios in the rooms. Are they correct or does the TV livcence cover this ?

Our Response:
The TV licence is for a different purpose - and pays for the BBC to produce programmes, public service output etc. The music licence is to protect musicians' recording rights/royalties. According to a legal ruling, PRS for Music is legally entitled to require B&Bs and Guest Houses with TVs or radios in guest rooms to pay a licence. Licences for music in guest bedrooms start from £44 plus VAT per year, for up to 15 bedrooms (more details are on the PRS website).
StartABedAndBreakfast - 2-Dec-16 @ 11:23 AM
Recently contacted by PRS demanding that I buy a licence because we have TV in the 6 rooms of our B&B despite already having a TV licence good for 15 rooms; there are no radios in the rooms .. Are they correct or does the TV livcence cover this ?
B&Bdoctor - 1-Dec-16 @ 12:30 PM
I stayed in bed and breakfast accommodation in a public house. There was no one on site at all after the bar closed and the staff went home. There was no contact number and no one to answer any queries. Is this legal??
Chell - 10-Oct-16 @ 9:49 PM
Julie - Your Question:
I run a b and b as I was wondering how long a person would be able to stay before they had rights over staying longer or had to be evicted, we have someone wishing to stay for 2-3 months, is that advisableregardsJulie

Our Response:
They don't have any rights to stay longer than you want them to if they're on a paid B&B basis.
StartABedAndBreakfast - 20-Apr-16 @ 12:17 PM
i run a b and b as i was wondering how long a person would be able to stay before they had rights over staying longer or had to be evicted, we have someone wishing to stay for 2-3 months, is that advisable regards Julie
Julie - 18-Apr-16 @ 4:50 PM
Hi, I own a residential property (through Nationwide) which has 6 rooms, we have lived in in for 3 months now.Our neighbours have a bed and breakfast and my wife would love to do the same with 4 of the rooms.I contacted Stratford Town planning and they said we would have to apply for change of use (they think this won't be a problem) but I contacted Nationwide and they said they don't do commercial mortgages.When I checked out commercial mortgages some lenders require 30% and higher.Does this mean we can't do it?We have no additional funds for a larger deposit. Kind regards, Adrian
Cookie - 17-Nov-15 @ 1:59 PM
Hi, I am not English, wish to buy a small B&B in Torquay. My question is, can I buy a freehold bb and run by ourselves? Thank you very much indeed.
Sading - 2-Oct-15 @ 10:57 AM
Hi there! We booked a b&b 3months ago for this coming Saturday to attend a wedding. My partner was in the bridal party and I just attending the evening (with both of us coming from opposite sides of the country) so 2days ago I contacted the b&b to arrange myself doing the checking in for us but she was adamant we both had to be present to do so which was just not possible. Now i understand everyone can run their business how they like but nowhere on any of the bookings terms and conditions was this stipulated otherwise I never would have booked it. It has resulted in having to cancel the booking because of this but I'm just wondering if i have anywhere to stand on getting the money paid refunded as she is refusing due to it being so close to the date...again ifI had of been made aware of these terms earlier i would have cancelled within the 14days refund period. Many thanks for any advice!
kiwimash - 31-Jul-15 @ 8:34 AM
@Glenn. There are no set licences needed for B&B owners - but you'll need to think about various types of insurance (including Public Liability), planning permission, food hygience certificates etc.
StartABedAndBreakfast - 28-Apr-15 @ 12:02 PM
Hi, We are looking at running a B&B in the next year or two in Scotland; probably Perthshire, Argyll or Aberdeenshire. We are currently in Australia but my wife is a British Citizen and my Father's side is as well. I understand we need to look into the local provisions and policies of each local government area but was wondering if there are any licences required through the Scottish or central government? regards Glenn
Glenn - 23-Apr-15 @ 4:05 AM
@Stally. You should ask someone from Dover's planning department for the local regulations. These differ from place to place, but the average we have come across are two spaces per dwelling plus one space per bedroom used for B&B. There is also usually a stipulation that all spaces are provided off road and/or within the curtilage of the dwelling. There may be a requirement for more spaces if you are to include a bistro.
StartABedAndBreakfast - 18-Mar-15 @ 10:58 AM
Hi, I am at present going through the planning application for a Bistro with B & B. I have a problem with parking, although I think this can be resolved. But can anyone tell me how many parking spaces I would require for 3 bedrooms, although to start I will possibly only want to rent out 2. I have been told it's 1 car per 10 beds ? This seems wrong - anybody have an answer for this. I am near Dover in village. Regards, Mark.
Stally - 15-Mar-15 @ 4:48 PM
@robbaylis. If there was nowhere that said you should have booked for breakfast in advance, you shouldn't reasonably have expected to know that. While hotels do not automatically include breakfast in a room rate, it's generally accepted that Bed&Breakfast is just that...bed and breakfast. You would not normally have to book breakfast in advance, but that is just opinion, there is no legislation to back that up apart from possibly the Trade Descriptions Act. Under The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 (when undertaking your marketing activities) you must provide accurate descriptions of your hotel facilities that is a true and fair reflection and is not misleading in any way. The need to book breakfast in advance should have been publicised in an easy to spot place or at the time of checking in.
StartABedAndBreakfast - 30-Jul-14 @ 2:21 PM
Hi, I stayed in a B & B last night and was refused breakfast in the morning. I went into the dining area at the specified time and was told I should have told them I wanted breakfast the previous night. When we arrived the landlady said breakfast is served between 9 am and 1030 am but did not say we had to pre book it. Is this allowed? I would like to seek legal advice and im not sure where to go from here. I am very unhappy that I paid for services which were then refused to me for no apparent reason. Thanks Rob Baylis
robbaylis - 29-Jul-14 @ 10:16 PM
Very informative read thank you
MichaelR - 30-Jul-12 @ 5:15 PM
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