How to Bed and Breakfast: First Steps to Optimize My Home




So you have this sweet dream of a Bed and Breakfast; now its time to introduce something a little more sour: municipal permits.


Welcome to the illustrious society of bed and breakfast operators, if you don't mind me saying so myself! Now is the time to bring all the ideas to the table, and discuss their pros and cons. Let's start the long journey with a big step!


Step 1

 Ahh, the legendary step 1. This is where the real journey begins, and where you must start: phone or e-mail your local Planning Department. Whether you like municipal government or not, remember that you need to have them on your side. They are in a position to be of help, if you harness their strengths. Yes, they demand a ransom in fees, and more often than not the fees that are charged seem to serve no other purpose than robbery, but grin and bear it. If you choose to“fly under the radar” you may spend less in the short term, but your bed and breakfast business won't be worth any more to your home's value than before you started


Step 2

Organize an informal talk with a planner at your municipality, or an administrative assistant who can answer your questions. It has been my experience that pre-consultation is a necessary part of the process. Be warned that the result of your consultation will probably be that you are required to proceed with formal zoning changes on your property. This is not all bad news: the bed and breakfast use is usually quite compatible with residential use. Having said that, there are times when applicants are sent to the door. That is the purpose of the pre-consultation: an answer of no is delivered before you become committed to your project. If you're not allowed to run a bed and breakfast, then move on. Go ahead and fight city hall if you want to, but be aware that it can be a long process. Your case is usually heard before a semi-judicial body with authority over your municipality.


Step 3

If you and the planner both left the pre-consultation meeting with broad smiles, then it's time to get rolling. Sometimes the best thing to do is stroll around your neighbourhood and inform your nearest ones about what you plan to do. Besides, you've got some time on your hands. The permit process can be glacial; be prepared for  as long as 6 months. For this reason, fill out all the municipal forms and write all the cheques that they want, and do it sooner rather than later. Remember to time the application process so you're not sitting on your hands waiting while your local tourist season is at a peak.

Step 4 (Waiting)

This part was difficult for me. I wanted to break out the power tools and start cutting two-by-sixes!  So try doing something else with all that pent-up energy. You could send the marketing feelers out. If you're web-savvy, then fire up a website which gives blow-by-blow updates of your application process, and expected opening dates (pending approval, of course!).


The next article in this series, How to Bed and Breakfast: Permits Two will expose the nasty details of permits and costs.