A new b&b, Could use some help! :)

10 replies [Last post]

 Hello all,

First let me say hi! Great forum and I have been reading for some time, this is my first post.  I've read some forums here that are similar to my issue, but I wanted to post ours and see if anyone could help.  Let me post my scenario if I may...hopefully some of you can provide me with some hope!

My wife and I currently live in the mountains of Georgia in a great little house. We are about in the middle stages of trying to "convert" our house into a b&b. We've jumped through a number of hoops already only to encounter more road blocks..

We understand the risks, costs all and all that goes with trying to run a b&b. This b&b will not be funding our lives, it is more for a little spare income here and there, but we are doing it more for the hospitality end of the spectrum. We think our house is something special and the area around it, and provides a nice experience for people to visit. Our house has 4 bedrooms, but we will only be renting out 1 bedroom to start with.

So anyways, on to the business aspect. First, we already have a LLC formed to run the business under. We have visited the various county offices and applied for all the necessary business and other permits required by the county. Everything seemed to be going great and we were about be handed our permits until the county official mentioned that she didn't know if the house fell under the fire jurisdiction. So we said ok, we'll meet with the fire chief, not a problem at all, he was actually very nice but now It seems now we have completely opened a pandora's box of issues!!

My wife and I have a number of questions, and the county office provides little to no help, it seems every answer we get; some other official will contradict that statement. So maybe some of you can shed some light based on your experiences. Maybe i'm not asking the right questions to the county? The people at the offices are very nice, the fire chief even picks up his cell phone when I call him, but no one can give me a straight 100% answer.
Our house is a relatively new house, built in 2006 and built remarkably to code at that time. The HVAC is exceptional, fire alarms in every room, large windows for access outside, etc etc.

To rent out 1 room, the fire chief first said we should be fine as long as we aren't renting out 2 rooms.  Then he said we could rent out 2 rooms as long as we had under 4 people staying with us at any time, as long as we have a fire alarm and the windows open to an exit, which they do.   Now he is saying we need to outfit the entire house with spinkler system as we fall under the national lodging/boarding system. We have a well, and I've researched that the cost of this would be astronomical considering we are only renting out 1 room!! The room is on the main floor, and the main floor has direct access outdoors.
I've asked the chief to see the code myself, and he directed me to the NFPA page where they want 90 dollars to buy the code book! Shouldn't this document of public safety be...well....made to the Public for free?  Do we really fall under the International Building Codes jurisdiction??

This is the ONLY document the county can provide me with concerning b&b's..


The other questions that come to our mind, we have been to a number of B&B's throughout the state, and 0% of them have had sprinkler systems, nor have they had 2 door exits in any room. Are we missing something here?

We feel very frustrated and lost as their seem to be no clear cut documents about running a b&b in our state according to law, as in other states I have seen.
Sorry if this post was a big wall of text, but any help or direction would be appreciated. I turned to this forum to get some perspective from people who may have been in this position before, I am sure their have been!

A big thank you to you all! Smiling


 Please do not take this the wrong way but the biggest mistake people make is thinking "I have a house and I am going to make it into a B&B". 

As a former Innkeeper in GA who closed my Inn 6 months ago, what I can say is that the regulations not only vary from state to state, and county to county, but from a few years ago until now. 

B&B's are becoming more regulated as a result of more insurance claims (fault or no fault), possibly by calls from the public and / or from competitors who use one B&B's shortfalls to force new regulations. Here is one example of how things can change - when I redid my kitchen 6 years ago I installed a double in-cabinet convection oven and an in-countertop 5 burner gas cooktop. As long as I owned the B&B - and because this was part of acceptable serv safe regulations at he time, it was ok. But now the regulations have changed, and what would be required for anyone buying the property as an Inn would be a free standing commercial grade oven. - because i was "grandfathered into" the old regulations. Although the fire Marshall did an inspection of my property when I first open, the fire safety requirements were driven by my insurance company, and not by the ounty I was in a really small town so this is different everywhere. Whether you are renting one room or 10 in "most" cases you will be required to get commercial or B&B insurance, and the cost vs ncome ratio may not only make this a "non profit" operation for you, but a loss operation. Although everyone can give you good general info on this site, every situation is different and you will need to be running in circles to get the info you need. I would recommend you also connect with the GA nnkeepers assn. Best of luck.






First and foremost WELCOME.

Boy that sounds so familiar and we did it back in '99 (and not in your state).   As others have said each area has their own guidelines.  The fact is that everyone must follow the Federal Fire Code, then State codes, then county, then city; each can be more strict than the Fed, but not less strict. 

The problem comes from interpretation of the code and how it applies to your business.  I believe the first order is to determine what codes apply to what business model...  Are you really a B&B renting out only 1 room?  Or a guesthouse or homestay?   And how that applies to the fire code.  I do find it interesting that with other B&B's in the county that they had to have had some guidelines aready in place, why not continue on that course?

Since you are not getting a reply to your emails to the state assoc.  I would call the president himself @ his B&B and see if he can offer you some assistance.  He is the owner of the Mtn Lau rel Creek Inn. 

I do also have a question regarding 2 exit doors... what I recall the code stated was more of 2 means of regress - not necessarily does that mean both being doors - could be windows.   Interpretation!    As was pointed out, get everything in writing! 

You mention flying under the radar and rent via VRBO.  You may but you have already exposed intentions, in some cities this would mark you with a red flag to watch for violations.  I know this is not easy, opening a business never is, but it will keep you at ease if you are not worried that at any moment you could be shut down. 

seashanty's picture

i was not in your state, so i can only tell you of my experience in new england.

i had to do many things, make many modifications to get licensed and permitted.  looking at other b&b's around, it seems they were grandfathered in.  because i was getting a new license, etc under a new owner ... ALL the new regulations came to bear.  even down to our sign which i had to get a permit for and approval and an inspection of.  for a sign at the end of the driveway!  all over the town there were signs of all kinds but MINE had to meet the latest specs. 

i was frustrated by this ... enormously so ... by the inequity of the situation.  by the costs heaped on me for every little thing.  i sympathize. 

in spite of the expense, i wanted a sprinkler system in the old wooden building i was in.  i know darn well that it could  go up in flames in no time.  the exits are inadequate and i doulbt if a full house of folks could get out, especially in smoke filled hallways.  it was terrifying to me to think of.  the inspector allowed the permits without a sprinkler system.  the owner was thrilled ... less expense, etc.  but i worried constantly.

i wish you luck.  your experience is repeated from state to state all over the united states.  next town over, i would hear different rules applied for new owners of an old place. made me crazy.



 Wow, thank you both for your quick replies!! Smiling


@Madeline.  Thanks for your reply!  We have walked through 2 different b&b's in our own county, both did not have sprinklers, some of the rooms did also not have 2 exits doors, so I am not sure how they legally got around this...unless they didn't Eye-wink  We didn't ask the owner how they were able to get around this yet.   I am also not sure if they are on city water or not, I could also look at the tax records and find out, I will look into that.  As we are almost 1 1/2  miles from a town road, I would assume it would NOT be possilbe to hook up to city water.  As for any county codes, I cannot find any.  Speaking to the fire chief, his reply was : " The Fire Marshal's office uses the following codes: International Building Codes, International Fire Codes, NFPA 101 Life Safety Code Chapter 26, Lodging and Boarding Houses.  Really, international code...really? :/

@Joey, thanks for the reply!  I believe the http://www.inngeorgia.com is the association.  However, contacting them through email and phone has rendered 0 replies :/  I'm not even sure if its active.  Our property is located on its own acreage, not on a town road.  That is the frustrating part, there doesnt seem to be an article from the county determining what, if any, are the differences between a b&b, hotel, boaring house, etc.  According to the NFPA,  under international code our house with 1 room is on the same level as a 300 room hotel, that is asinine and I know there must be a way around this.

Is the answer not even to run under a business and just "use" our room as rental room, similar you would find on VRBO?





We used to have a B&B in GA and the State association did not and apparently still doesn't do anything.  Our local municipality made the rules.  Sadly, I paid the same business taxes and personal property taxes for 5 rooms as the 22 room B&B in town.  Had to have the same inspections, etc.

Best of luck!


People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy.
~ Anton Chekhov



To respond to the VRBO comment, as a B&B you need to be licensed AND INSURED, liability is a big deal when you have strangers in your home. When we say NO OPEN FLAMES we mean it. People do crazy things, and in a new environment they do even crazier things!

So just some food for thought on that issue as well.  If you had something happen, and stuff happens, you need to have all bases covered.  Look into AirBnB, they now provide insurance for those who use their service. AirBnB is a free listing, you only have to pay a percent (they deduct it from the room rate) when someone stays with you, and it is reasonable.


Gluten free is never free. - Joey Bloggs


Innkeep's picture

 I had some of the same sort of grief in my town. You might see if the fire Marshall might be mollified by hard wiring your fire alarms thru a home security system to notify the fire department whenever the alarms go off in your house. Especially since there seems to be a question about how to treat a one room place. Don't go crazy in the interim!


gillumhouse's picture

The basic ONLY rule when talking to officialdom - GET IT IN WRITING!!!

First off, welcome and good luck. If there is a State or regional B & B Association go to them for advice and what are the rules. Each State is different as well as County and City. Some places just adopt the International Code because they figure it is all hashed out there - without knowing exactly what is in it. Our Planning & Zoning Commission (I am on it) was advised to adopt the International Code so we did. And we have found things in it that do not fit us and we are making changes as we find them, but you have to start somewhere and we did.

Our State Fire Codes were probbly the same ones your guy is referring to. We were considered under the rules for hotel/motel OR  we got the "you are right, you are not a hotel/motel so you must be a rooming house." No more than 3 PAID guests at any time. Our association went to the Legislature and got B & Bs added in the mix with a few alternatives to the sprinkler requirement. NEW construction requires the sprinklers though.


Do you belong to a state B&B association? That is where I would start.

Is your place rural? You stated mountains, but is the house in a town on a street or out on it's own property/acreage?

Health and safety is a big issues and depends on where you are and who you are, and who you deal with. There are many B&B's that do not have occupancy/permit inspections by any local authority, then others who have fire dept, health dept, and building dept. Because another inn has or does not have something doesn't mean it applies to you. Many inns are grandfathered in.

I hope you find the right answers! It sounds like a lot of hoops and possibly expense for 1 room rental, you are probably not legally a B&B, but a homestay or rental in their eyes (?) I would get that sorted out first, a boarding house, a lodging establishment, an inn, make sure you get that wording from them before you proceed, diff laws apply to diff types of lodging.

Madeleine's picture

Welcome to the world of town and county fiefdoms! Ask the fire chief to print out the pertinent pages for you. Or, if you know someone at the FD ask them. If they are referring you to the NFPA then your county doesn't have a code. If your county doesn't have a code, go stay t a B&B in your county and look it over. You could also see if any B&B's in your county will just talk to you about the codes. Their info will be better than ours. Unless someone here is exactly where you are.

How about the town you're in, do they have codes? If there is lodging in your town, stay in it. Or, if it's a hotel/motel just go in and look around. There are hotels in my state with no sprinklers but my little B&B has one. (Town water, different scenario. And, yes, there's a bill we pay every month to be hooked up to the water line for the sprinkler system. That's another thing you may find...there's a bill for everything you want to do.)

to the wacky world of B&B


Everyday, for good or ill, we intersect with some else's story and become a part of it.


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