When buying a Bed and Breakfast in the Niagara Region, be aware of the bylaws that govern the business. As previously written on this website, each area is governed by different bylaws. In Niagara Falls, the focus is on fire protection, in Niagara-on-the Lake it is parking and numerous other items. Over the past couple of years the Bed and Breakfast Association has been working with the Town of Niagara on the Lake to ensure that the bylaws are fair and enforceable. There is nothing worse than running your B&B properly and your neighbour breaking the bylaws or even worse not getting a license. In Niagara on the Lake and Niagara Falls if you sell rooms for Short Term accommodation you MUST be licensed. The number of people who say to me "I am not going to run a B&B I am just going to AirBnB" I do not need a Licences. WRONG. You need to get a licence. Each year the Bed and Breakfast association sends a list of unlicensed properties to the town By Law officer. The Cost of the fine is $500 per night that they can figure you have sold rooms. In Niagara Falls you get a seize and dismiss letter.
In August of 2013 the Town made some changes. We, the Bed and Breakfast Association, did not get everything that we wanted but we did get some considerations.
These changes mildly affected the Bed and Breakfasts but for the most part the rental cottages (vacation homes) were affected. Here are some of the changes for bed and breakfasts:
1) Licenses are now renewed every 4 years (changing from 2 years). Historically we paid every other year for a 2 year cycle but were inspected annually. Now we renew every 4 years and are inspected once every 4 years but we can pay EITHER every year or once every 4 years.
This was a big change as the process was long with over 150 properties having to be inspected every year. In order to put this in place the area was divided into 4 sections, all B&Bs on the same cycle in that area.
2) Insurance. We have always had to have a $2Million rider on our home insurance for the Bed and breakfast, we now have had to add the Town on the policy. This has affected many B&Bs that purchase insurance from the same company that they have prior to moving here (I am one of those). However there are a couple of local insurance companies that are aware of the Bed and breakfast business in the area and are able to accommodate this request. (At one time the Town wanted to increase this to $5M, we fought and won - YEAH)
3) Definition of a Bedroom was added. This is interesting and as of yet I cannot how it affects bed and breakfasts; however it will have a major issue on cottages.
The end result has been very little for existing business. The issue is what happens when a house is converted into a B&B. This will be interesting; will the town be harsher on the existing by-laws (parking)?
For the existing B&BS, getting a renewal (even with a change of ownership) has been much easier. Here is a note from a member of the Bed and Breakfast Association to the Board of Directors
On Monday, December 9, 2013 4:10 PM, Historic Davy House Circa1842 Jeff & Flo
...just wanted to give a formal thank you to the recent (and past) BBA Boards for their efforts in working with the Town on the Bed & Breakfast Liscensing.
This is now our 12th season doing B&B in NOTL & pretty much for the first decade it was a fight with the By law officer doing this renewal...meaning they would approach with attitude looking for something that would disallow the renewal. Heaven forbid if it was a 1st time liscensing of a property as at that time the officers would apprear to take pleasure in the negative instead of a work together process to achieve a positive outcome for the B&B operator.
There were rules to follow back then and rules to follow now however from what we have just experienced with our renewal this week was outstanding. We called the Town requesting a renewal - they showed up within the week - By law officer attitude was wonderful - did her review and was gone in less than 20 minutes complimenting us on our operation...the reality is, we have changed very little from those early years in our operational history whereby this renewal usually became confrontational with the Officers.
This process did not get better by chance.
We have to believe this is a direct result of the BBA Board, over the years, working with our Town and not settling for the unacceptable treatment that was received throughout the approx. yrs. of 2000 - 2010 by these By law officers.
Again, we thank you for the Boards efforts and all the people involved in making this happen.
Jeff & Flo