How to Bed and Breakfast: Other Permits




Starting a bed and breakfast requires other permits after zoning conditions have been met. There are various building permits which are required along the way, and maybe some business licenses.


Applying for a new use on your property certainly lets the bureaucratic genie out of the lamp, and he probably has at least 3 permit applications to bless your with. All this red tape has to be cut, so prepare yourself and plan carefully. This is something that millions of people just like you have done; once you get a feel for the process it really does make sense. Remember that most of the important permits are not obtainable until after your zoning approval. This is not always the case; see below.

·The Building Permit

Most homeowners have heard of this one. It is almost a certainty that the work you do on your home to prepare it for B&B use will require a building permit. The permit process is designed to enforce the provisions of your local building code. This is a kind of homeowner insurance policy, protecting future owners of your home from substandard and/or dangerous renovations. You will be charged a fee based on the value of the project. In Ottawa, Canada, you are levied $12 per $1000 of construction value, and are charged a minimum of $80. So the permit for a $10,000 reno will cost $120 in Canada's capital. Plumbing is often charged separately, based on how many plumbing fixtures are being constructed. The minimum fee in Ottawa is $80, plus $10 per fixture.

The city of Spokane, WA uses different formulas, but the results are similar.

There is a series of inspections which all building permits require: footings, plumbing, insulation, foundations, framing, occupancy and final. It is not likely that footing and foundation inspections will be needed for your renovation. Sometimes inspectors will combine two or more inspections to streamline the process.

·The Electrical Permit

This one is required for most home renovations. The problem is that cutting through walls (or adding walls) generally disrupts the existing electrical order in your home. Here in Ontario, we are governed by the Electrical Safely Authority, which itself is guided by the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. It is typical for an electrical permit to cost $200-$300 for modest renovations. You will be visited by your inspector at least twice; the first visit, called the "rough-in" here in Ontario, allows the inspector to view the work before the drywall goes in. Later, he or she will return for the final inspection, with the hydro turned on. In other jurisdictions, like Macon County Illinois, Electrical, Building and Plumbing permits are often issued by the same office. Electrical permits alone might cost $35 for a 500 sq ft renovation, with a base fee of $25 to total to $60.

·The Septic Permit

If you've lived your life in the city, the world of septic systems is like a fetid, faraway country that you never want to travel to. All septic systems are sized for the house that they service (in theory anyway). This is where the inspectors come in. When you add a bathroom to a house, it is possible that a waste output threshold will be passed. This is dealt with by increasing the capacity of the system, either by enlarging it, or making it more efficient. You will have to apply for a septic upgrade permit; here in Ontario, its in the $100-$300 range. If you are compelled to upgrade your system, the cost is often a major percentage of the entire renovation. Expect to pay at least $10,000 for a septic upgrade. Fortunately, you can inquire before you start the zoning process; they'll tell you if your new use requires a larger system. If you wish, you can go ahead and upgrade your system before the zoning goes through, but you'd better be pretty sure the zoning is going to pass!

·Yet More Permits

Depending on where you live, there may be more permits. Many municipalities issue a business license. In Vancouver, Canada it is $41 per year, and a one-time fee of $50. If you live where the Minnesota Department of Health is in charge, a hotel/motel license and a restaurant license are required. Check your local regulations for more interesting reading.


The next article in this series, How to Bed and Breakfast: Rules of Optimization, will provide some guidelines for construction.