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Legal requirements for Bed and Breakfast and Guest Houses Businesses in South Africa

a beautiful bedroom in a guest house

Are you planning to operate a bed and breakfast, guest house or boutique hotel in South Africa? Well, I have to be honest with you. Operating a B&B legally is not as easy as just waking up and putting up signs that you have a B&B and expect to start taking bookings, but it is doable. It is a bit complex than running a Airbnb. The good news is we have got you covered. Here are the requirements for operating a bed and breakfast legally in South Africa. First, let’s look at the definition of a B&B in South Africa:


  • In South Africa, a bed and breakfast by definition is a commercial accommodation establishment operated from a single private dwelling house.
  • A B&B, Guest House or Boutique Hotel is managed by a resident owner, manager, or a resident lessee.
  • A B&B or guest house must provide sleeping and breakfast facilities.
  • According to the South African Tourism Grading Course (TGCSA), a B&B must include a breakfast charge on the room rate.
  • A B&B, guest house or boutique hotel must be aimed primarily at the tourist or business market.
  • Daily servicing of the rooms must be included in the room charge.
  • Bathroom facilities must be en-suite, if not exclusive use of bathroom facilities per room is mandatory.
  • Servicing of rooms 7 days a week. This includes linen and towel change, removal of rubbish, cleaning the room, and replenishing bathroom amenities.
  • In most South African municipalities and towns, a B&B must have up to 3 rooms. From 4 rooms upwards to 16, it is regarded as a guest house and a boutique hotel is a more luxurious property, however, smaller than a hotel. 

bed and breakfast guest house management distance learning course


Legal requirements for a B&B, Guest House and Boutique Hotel premises

To legally operate a B&B, guest house or boutique hotel, you need to comply with all the following applicable legislation:

(a) The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, 1977 (Act No. 103 of 1977) where all buildings constructed on the premises must comply with this Act and its regulations.


(b) The council of the local municipality applicable Town Planning Scheme with specific reference to parking, floor area ratio, height, coverage and zoning, number of rooms, if prescribed by a Town Planning Scheme applicable to the area where the property is located and with Council’s Outdoor Advertising Bylaws concerning signage.


(c) The Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act No. 54 of 1972) and the Regulations governing general hygiene requirements for food premises and the transport of food, formulated under the Health Act, 1977 (Act No. 63 of 1977), where a Certificate of Acceptability must be obtained from the Council’s Senior Health Inspector.


(d) The Broadcasting Act, 1999 (Act No. 4 of 1999) if the lettable room is supplied with a television set; (e) the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) where a license is required if background music is to be played to the guests;


(f) Your Provincial Gambling and Liquor Act, 2010, (Act No. 6 of 2010) if liquor, including complimentary drinks, are served to guests.


(g) The Tobacco Products Control Act, 1993 (Act No. 83 of 1993) where it is a requirement that signs are displayed in areas designated for smoking and no-smoking signs are displayed elsewhere.


The B&B premises must provide the following:

  • Access to bedrooms and bathrooms at all times for registered guests.
  • A serviceable lock and key (for privacy) to each lettable room.
  • An area where breakfast will be served, adequate for the use of, and easily accessible to any guest on the premises.
  • A bathroom and toilet for each lettable room suitably placed in a separate compartment which is close to the lettable room and is easily accessible to the guest/s of a lettable room and separate to that of the owner of the facility.
  • No kitchen facility may be provided to guests in the lettable rooms;
  • The operation of the B&B may not detract from the residential character and amenities of the property or the immediate surroundings.
  • The B&B must be of such a nature that the predominant land use is retained and if in a residential area, the residential character of the house is retained.
  • The B&B may not include a place of public assembly or a place of public amusement.

image of guest house marketing workshop

Licensing is required to legally operate a B&B, Guest House or Boutique Hotel in South Africa

  • If you would like to operate a Bed and Breakfast, Guest House or Boutique Hotel, you must apply in writing for your municipality’s consent.
  • When the council of the local municipality receives an application for such special consent and, before deciding whether or not to approve the application, the council;


(a) may request the applicant to provide any further information which the council considers relevant to enable it to make an informed decision;


(b) will take into consideration –

(i) the scale and size of the proposed establishment about the character of the area;

(ii) whether the premises are suitable for the proposed use;

(iii) whether there are sufficient on-site parking facilities for motor vehicles and (iv) any other matter which would, in its opinion, interfere with the amenities and character of the neighborhood; and

(c) must ensure that the relevant premises are inspected by authorized officials as soon as reasonably possible.


Subject to subsection

The council may –

(a) approve the application for special consent subject to such terms and conditions that are reasonably aimed at eliminating or reducing the risk, if any, which is likely to be caused by the relevant activity; or

(b) refuse the application for special consent.

(4) The applicant must also apply for and obtain a Business License from the Licensing Authority for the area in which the facility is located.

Since a B&B is a business, you need to register your business under the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Check their website here www.cipc.co.za


Remember: going through the lengthy legal route to operate your B&B legally will save you the hassle of having to run around with authorities on your neck. Doing shortcuts may lead to hefty penalties or even force you to close down your B&B.


What is the Difference Between a B&B and a Guest House?


We get asked a lot about this question by aspiring B&B and guest house owners when they are looking for a suitable category for their establishment. As an accommodation business owner, it is very important get this right so as to not confuse your customers. Whether you like it or not, your customers will always have a perception about your establishment based on what you call it. So, what is the difference between a B&B and a guest house? Let's unpack it here:



Generally, B&Bs are smaller establishments than Guest Gouses. A Bed & Breakfast is usually up to 3 guest rooms, while a Guest Gouse can be 4 even up to 16 or more rooms. In a nutshell, most B&Bs caters for maximum 6 guests at a time. In a B&B the owner stays in the property and there's no formal reception area, bar or restaurant to serve lunch and dinner. If at all a B&B may have a small dining area to cater for breakfast only. In a guest house, you may find other services like a licensed bar, guest swimming pool, spa, etc. 


Organizational Structure

When it comes to organizational structure, the two are run differently. Most B&Bs are managed and run by the owner who stays in the property, while in Guest Houses are run at a more professional level. In a Guest House, the owner may run it themselves or employ a Manager to run it on their behalf. You will also find a reception area in a guest house where guests check-in and check-out, while in a B&B, you may be checked-in even from your car and given a key to your room. In a guest house you may also find other support staff like a receptionist and housekeeping staff. 


Services Rendered

As mentioned before, a Guest House is run on a professional level than a B&B. Bed & Breakfasts cater only for breakfast while guest houses may cater for even lunch and dinner. Both properties offer daily housekeeping and should have en-suite bathrooms. In short, B&Bs are private homes that offer lodging and breakfast facilities. B&Bs are more homely than guest houses. In a B&B you will most likely meet the owner (and his cats and dogs), while in a guest house, this may not be the case. 


In summary, it is very important to choose the category that best suits your establishment as this will have a direct impact on how your prospective guests think of your accommodation business. If you are converting your own home and you will be staying there with your family while selling some few rooms to guests, then you may have to call it a B&B, while if you are looking to run a small accommodation business (between 4-16 rooms), you may have to call it a Guest House. 


Advice to B&B, Guest House and Boutique Hotel owners

Remember that your guests are not your friends. Yes, they are in your space, however, they still deserve the same privacy. Kindly afford them. To run a B&B requires you as the owner to understand that you cannot be checking up on your guests every 5 minutes. Give them respect and they will do the same. 




Also, as a B&B owner, be considerate with your guests. They are paying their hard-earned money to stay in your property. Treat them as customers, they will do the marketing for you. 


setting up your guest house rates


Bed & Breakfast/ Guest House Management Distance Learning Course


Running a B&B is not as easy as it looks. The potential to make a lot of money is there, as well as the potential of running it to the ground. We recommend that you consider enrolling for the B&B Management Distance Learning Course in order to get all the tools you need to run your business professionally and make good profit. You study in the comfort of your own space in your own pace. Everything is sent to you via email and you submit assignments via email.


I hope this article helps. Leave us a comment below. 


Did you find the information helpful? Are you planning to run your own B&B, guest house or boutique hotel? Are you looking to convert your Airbnb to a fully-fledged B&B, Guest House or Boutique Hotel? Where are you based? Please let us know in the comments below or email on training@hospitalitycourses.co.za or call Samkeliso Nkwanyane on +27 82 765 9238.



Warm Regards, 


Sam Nkwanyane

Hospitality Coach, Customer Experience Optimization, Speaker and Consultant




B&B Management Distance Learning Course


By the way, we have an amazing Bed & Breakfast Management Distance Learning Course for you. You study in the comfort of your own space. You can finish the course within  6 months. Training material is emailed to you and you submit assignments via email.



In this course, we cover all aspects of running a successful B&B and all small accommodation businesses. We are currently running amazing special and affordable monthly payment plans to suit your budget. Enroll now for the course and realize your dreams