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How to start a bed and breakfast in Ontario
Table of contents
A Bed and Breakfast, commonly known as a B&B, is a business that provides short-term accommodations in a private home, or other comparable location, and traditionally includes breakfast as part of the service. Accommodations can vary from one establishment to the next, as each building has its own unique characteristics. Locations that might provide B&B accommodations can range from historic buildings and cottages, to houseboats and private homes. The amenities offered by different B&B businesses can also vary. In some cases, you may have private rooms with private bathrooms, or several private rooms with shared bathrooms. B&Bs generally emphasize a high level of personalized customer service and will often be connected to local tourist attractions.
When you start a business there are several things to consider before you can sell your product or service. Most businesses in Ontario need to complete a minimum of three basic steps:
- Find out what licences and regulations apply to your type of business
- Choose a business structure and register or incorporate your business
- Determine if you will need to collect and remit HST
Our Starting a Business guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.
Starting a Business
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use BizPaL to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact us to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and licences search
You may wish to contact your local municipality to verify how your B&B business will be classified and what regulations will apply to you (for example, you may need a Food Handler licence).
Additionally, most municipalities also require a building permit before alterations or new construction begins. It is important to check zoning regulations before signing any binding contracts and to obtain the necessary building permit(s) before beginning alterations or new construction.
Association of Municipalities of Ontario
Some common licenses, permits and regulations that may apply to your bed and breakfast include:
Food safety and labelling
Your local health unit is the main contact for information on food safety and inspections.
Contact your local health authority to arrange an inspection of your business location, equipment and processes and make sure your business is complying with provincial and federal legislation.
The following link provides contact information for local health authorities that inspect food businesses in Ontario.
Local public health contacts
You also need to follow safety standards and labelling rules if you produce, service, process or manufacture food.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
Most businesses that buy, sell, ship, process or manufacture food will have CFIA regulations to follow.
These regulations may require you to:
- Obtain a licence
- Keep records
- Properly label packaged foods
Activities that are regulated include:
- Importing foods for re-sale
- Selling food to the public, retail food sales
- Shipping food products to another province or territory
- Producing, manufacturing or advertising food products
Check with the CFIA to find out which requirements apply to your business.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)
You may have regulations or inspection standards to follow if you produce, transport or manufacture specific food products in Ontario. Regulated products include dairy, eggs, fish, meat, honey and other plant-based products. Contact the Ministry directly to find out what will apply to your business.
Regulations for the food industry
The Ontario government prohibits smoking in all enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places. Find out what your responsibilities are, what is required for inspections and how to get “No Smoking” signs.
Contact your local Public Health Unit:
Public Health Unit Locations
Building and fire codes
As a provider of accommodations you will likely need to meet additional requirements under the Ontario Building Code and the Ontario Fire Code to ensure the safety of your guests. You can contact your local Fire Department and Municipal Building Department to make sure that your business premises meets all local safety requirements.
Contact the Ontario Fire Marshal:
Ontario Fire Marshal Regional Offices
When your business uses recorded music, you are responsible for obtaining the right licence(s) for that use. Contact the following organization for more information:
Organizations that use music are legally required to obtain applicable RE:SOUND and SOCAN licences. Entandem enables businesses that use music to complete both licences at one time, through a single music license, so that rights-holders can be compensated for what they have fairly and legally earned through their work.
Travel and accommodation services
If you arrange transportation or sleeping accommodation for your clients, you may need to register with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO). Examples of activities that can include regulated travel and accommodation services:
To find out more about activities that require registration, contact TICO or visit their website.
Resources and guidelines
You can contact Pro Bono Ontario’s free legal advice hotline to enquire about getting help with your everyday civil legal needs (no family law or criminal law). The service is generally aimed at those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Note that service is not guaranteed and you will be asked questions as part of the qualifying process, such as the amount of personal income earned by your household, your name, postal code and age range.
Contact Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline:
You can also contact the Law Society of Ontario's Law Society Referral Service if you have legal questions of a business nature. The service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or paralegal, based on your needs.
Law Society Referral Service
Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.
If you sell goods and services in Ontario, you may need a business number to collect and remit the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most businesses that make less than $30,000 in any 12-month period are not required to charge HST; however, you can register voluntarily and claim input tax credits. Speak with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more information.
Canada Revenue Agency
Additional Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) information for Bed and Breakfast owners in Ontario
The Canada Revenue Agency also provides information on the following HST requirements and rebates that could apply to your business.
Contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA):
Operating a Bed and Breakfast in your home
Find out how the HST applies to operating a bed and breakfast in your home.
GI-007 Operating a Bed and Breakfast in Your Home
HST New Housing Rebate
You may be eligible for the HST new housing rebate if you bought or built a bed and breakfast.
GST/HST New Housing Rebate
HST Information for the Travel and Convention Industry
Learn how to charge the HST on accommodations, tour packages and passenger transportation services. You can also get information about HST rebates that may be available to non‑residents for eligible tour packages.
Sales by Individuals of Owner-Occupied Homes
Find answers to common questions and how the HST may apply to the sale of owner-occupied homes, including those operated as bed and breakfast businesses.
GI-004 Sales by Individuals of Owner-Occupied Homes
Grants, contributions, subsidies and loan guarantees are available from various government sources. Use Innovation Canada’s online search tool to look for programs and services that may apply to your business.
Grow your business
Tourism Development Fund
If you are a tourism professional, you may be eligible for financial support for innovation, training and improving the investment readiness of your business.
Contact the Investment and Development Office:
Tourism Development Fund
From day-to-day operations to long-term planning, learn how to manage your business efficiently.
Bed and Breakfast associations may provide information on accommodation rating services in addition to other resources and networking opportunities. If you are interested in finding an association, use our secondary market research service request and have us search for one based on your needs.
Industry specific information
- Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
- Travel Industry Council of Ontario - (TICO)
- Tourism HR Canada
- Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation
- Destination Canada
- Northern Ontario
- Regional tourism organization
- Ontario Tourism-Oriented Directional Signs (TODS)
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Small Business Services (SBS) community partner, contact us at 1-888-576-4444.