Bed and Breakfast Rules and Regulations

Part of a Worksheet Series for Aspiring Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers

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Because of the bed and breakfast industry's quick growth, in some areas laws and regulations regarding bed and breakfast operations are still catching up with this part of the travel and tourism industry. Laws vary from state to state and even municipality to municipality.

Some of the more common laws and regulations that could apply to a bed and breakfast are listed here. For complete information, contact officials in your state or municipality.

Often, Ohio is used as an example in this article. The situation in Ohio may or may not be relevant to other areas, so be sure to do independent research. A call to the local Chamber of Commerce or a state or local bed and breakfast association could be a big help.

Building Codes

One, two, and three-family dwellings with not more than five lodgers or boarders are exempt from the requirements of the Ohio Basic Building Code. However, the requirements of your local building codes are still applicable.

With more than five lodgers or boarders, the Ohio Basic Building Code would be applicable as either transient (use group R-1) or non-transient (use group R-2) residential buildings. Transient lodgers make use of a facility for a period of fewer than 30 days. Again, check with your own local codes.

Fire Inspection

The local fire department has jurisdiction to inspect all bed and breakfast operations which have four or more bedrooms hired out to the transient public for sleeping accommodations.

In Ohio, all bed and breakfasts with five or more bedrooms are subject to inspections by the State Fire Marshall's office.

For additional information on fire inspection, contact your own state or local fire department.

Food Service

In Ohio, any bed and breakfast serving a meal or lunch to five or fewer guests is exempt from purchasing a food service license. Any bed and breakfast serving a full meal or lunch to more than six guests must obtain a food service license, with the exception that there is no restriction on the number of guests that may be served a continental breakfast. A continental breakfast is defined as a beverage and pastry.

Contact your state and local health department for rules and regulations specific to your area.

Motel License

In Ohio, any bed and breakfast which has five or more rooms available for transient guests must purchase a motel license and comply with the requirements of the State Fire Marshall's office. Check with your state and local officials for any requirements in your location.

Registration of Business Name

Ohio law requires that any business name that does not fully identify the owner(s) of the business be registered with the Ohio Secretary of State. Also, if you wish to protect or keep the name that you have selected for your business, it will be necessary to apply for a trade name registration with the Ohio Secretary of State.

For more information on registering a name and/or trade name, contact your own state government. Consultation with an attorney experienced in this area may be helpful to ensure that you get as much protection of your name as possible.

Sales Tax

In Ohio, a bed and breakfast with five or more bedrooms available to transient guests is considered a hotel and the sales tax is applicable to the room rental charge. Also, a "bed tax" is applicable to a bed and breakfast with five or more rooms.

You'll need to check with your own state tax or revenue department for rules and regulations.


In most states, zoning is handled at the local level (generally through either the county or municipal government). The requirements which apply to bed and breakfasts vary from one location to another. Contact the local zoning board for details in your area.

This series of worksheets and information was originally written by Eleanor Ames, a Certified Family Consumer Sciences professional and a faculty member at Ohio State University for 28 years. With her husband, she ran the Bluemont Bed and Breakfast in Luray, Virginia, until they retired from innkeeping. Many thanks to Eleanor for her gracious permission to reprint them here. Some content has been edited, and links to related features on this site have been added to Eleanor's original text.

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