From awkward guests to power failures, as a B&B owner, you’ve probably seen it all. You might even feel that you’re ready to do it all again – by opening a second B&B and putting a team in place to run it.
While your experience so far will no doubt fare you well, there’s still plenty to consider when it comes to investing second time round.
Here, solicitors Lisa Evans and James Barker from Kirwans law firm detail the key property and health and safety points you need to think about when expanding your B&B portfolio, to make sure your new property boosts, rather than bleeds, your business.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
If there is one thing you’ll no doubt have learnt from your first B&B business, it is that location is everything. Most guests will look for rooms in popular tourist areas, so unless you’re going for a particular type of clientèle, you should rule out anything off the beaten track and look instead for properties close to all the tourist action.
It is important that you choose a location that attracts year-round business in order to avoid the property standing empty for six months of the year. Local business and tourist associations should be able to provide you with annual visitor figures, as well as the number of hotel and B&B rooms available, to help you calculate the viability of investing in a particular area.
Think about whether it makes more sense to buy in the same location as your current B&B, or whether there would be greater potential for a business elsewhere.
If you’re planning on buying in a different area, consider how you can use joint marketing initiatives to cross-promote both B&Bs and encourage people to enjoy a multi-stay holiday.
MAKE SURE THE PROPERTY HAS THE ‘WOW’ FACTOR
Potential guests seeking out B&Bs through websites will need to be impressed by the property at first sight, so it’s important that you are too. The right property should at least have the potential to look pretty and welcoming in order to attract online bookings as well as
INVEST IN A BUILDINGS SURVEY
While it might be tempting to save a few pounds by not bothering with a Buildings, or Structural Survey, investing in one could be the most important thing you can do to safeguard your business. A Buildings Survey will provide a detailed evaluation of a property’s condition and can help you understand whether the property is a good investment. It should highlight potential serious problems including damp, rot and structural movement, and can flag up issues that could cause serious financial and practical problems further down the line.
GET SPECIALIST ADVICE
With such a huge investment, it’s crucial to get specialist advice on the rules around capital allowances if you are buying a bigger property that’s already kitted out, as well as additional costs such as stamp duty. Seek the help of a conveyancing solicitor who can guide you through the process.
CHECK THERE ARE NO LEGAL RESTRICTIONS AGAINST B&B USE
Properties can have covenants attached preventing them from being used for commercial purposes, so ensure there are no restrictions around the use of your chosen property, both in relation to a B&B business and for any other business you may plan to run from the premises in the future.
BE CLEAR ON WHAT YOUR TARGET MARKET IS
Your choice of property and how you renovate it will depend on what type of customer you hope to attract, so decide early on whether you’ll be targeting young and trendies or over 60s.
CONSIDER THE COMPETITION
Your experience in the B&B industry so far means you’ll have a good understanding of what to look out for in terms of competition. Find out what’s on offer nearby and be clear about what you could do to develop your own USP. This might mean reconfiguring the property or installing features you wouldn’t otherwise have considered. Being clear on what you’ll need to do at the start could save time and money later.
SPEAK TO THE LOCAL PLANNING TEAM
If you’re planning on converting a house to a B&B, then you’ll need the support of your local planning department, so it’s wise to have a conversation before committing to a purchase.
SPEAK TO THE NEIGHBOURS
As you’ll probably have learnt by now, it’s important that local residents – and in particular your close neighbours – are happy for you to operate a B&B in their street, so knock on doors if you’re considering buying close by and check that they’re supportive of your plans.
ENSURE THERE’S ROOM FOR PARKING
One sure-fire way of upsetting the neighbours is to buy a property without parking and then watch your guests battle it out with neighbouring visitors to grab road- side parking spots. Make parking spaces a priority when choosing a house, and your guests will relax knowing that their car is safe and on-site too.
PLAN FOR EN SUITES IN EVERY ROOM
Shared bathroom facilities just don’t cut it anymore, so factor into your budget the cost of adding en suites to any bedrooms that don’t currently have them.
MAKE SURE THE PROPERTY IS SAFE
You must contact your local fire authority and let them know you’re going to be running a B&B. Discuss with them too, the fire safety measures you think you should have in place and ensure you haven’t left anything out prior to purchasing the property to make sure you’re not hit with unexpected costs further down the line.
New fire regulations that came into force in 2006 mean you will need to perform a risk assessment before opening for business, so make sure you’re clear – or take advice – on what you need to do.
You should also carry out an assessment to identify if asbestos is identified anywhere in the property before committing to a sale then, if so, take further advice on how it would need to be handled.
Remember as well that, once you’ve bought the property, anyone entering it could potentially sue you for injuries sustained while there, so stay alert for potential hazards such as broken flags or unsafe windows – all of which would need to be replaced before opening for business.
It goes without saying that gas and electricity supplies will need to be inspected before purchase, so that you can understand the sort of costs that might be involved in any work required.
Water supplies should also be checked for the presence of legionella bacteria, which can lead to the potentially fatal Legionnaire’s Disease, with control measures implemented to ensure any risk is minimised.
If you don’t feel confident doing any of these assessments yourself, then employ a specialist consultancy firm to do it for you.
There are other health and safety requirements to consider too, such as patio doors meeting the required standards and your legal obligations in relation to the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006, including registering with the local authority as a food business, all of which should be carefully considered before purchasing a property. The Health and Safety Executive is a useful hub of up-to-date industry legislation.
CONSIDER STAFF ACCOMMODATION
Your plan with this second property might be to install a management team who will run the business for you, in which case you’ll need to think carefully about what you can offer them in terms of accommodation. While you may be willing to accept sub-standard living quarters until your business takes-off, there are certain legal obligations you must adhere to when providing accommodation to an employee. Seek legal advice at an early stage to ensure the property allows you to meet all requirements, and to find out about your responsibilities as an employer.
THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE . . .
The right property could allow for potential growth in the future, so look at whether it would be possible to extend, or even trade to the public, if you decided to expand.
This feature was first published in the August 2018 issue of Luxury B&B Magazine.