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When is a B&B not a B&B?

The AA Bed & Breakfast 5 star rating

Many properties advertising overnight accommodation on websites like Airbnb are not professional B&Bs, though some are still renting out multiple bedrooms a night on a permanent basis.

They fall into a category, which at the moment, the law in this country does not recognise and so they don't need to follow any legislation. The law has been changed in several cities and countries across the world but the UK lags behind in legislating or taxing these businesses.

Professional B&Bs like The 25 are required by law to have a fire assessment, a health and safety check, electrical appliance testing, full insurance for people on our premises, a working fire alarm system which can be heard from every bed, and extinguishers which are tested six monthly, a grading from the Environmental Health, commercial waste collection, an alcohol licence and many other legal requirements making us a safe environment for our guests.

There is an argument that some of this legislation is a little heavy handed. For instance, I went through the same training for my personal alcohol licence as a 2000 capacity nightclub holder would. But many of these pieces of legislation are essential for the safety of the general public.

By staying at an unlicensed B&B, you’re opening yourself up to potential dangers. They may have no fire alarm, they may have dangerous appliances, if they serve breakfast they may have no idea about how to store and handle raw meat, and I doubt they’d have a temperature probe to check they’ve heated your food to the required temperature to make it safe to eat.

As they don’t have the expenses of legislation to follow, they are able to offer cheaper rooms, thus undercutting established B&Bs. Then they pay no taxes or VAT either.

Please think carefully before going somewhere just because it's cheap - the reason it's cheap is they have none of the overheads of a professional establishment. People undercutting professional accommodation businesses is affecting the industry. In some cities this is having a massive affect – thus resulting in the need for the laws to be changed.

We’ve all heard horror stories about the accommodation being nothing like it is in the photos or being a death trap like the case here:

Until there is more legislation in force, stories like this will unfortunately continue. There is a place for non-professionals to sell their spare room on line but there has to be some kind of structure and there has to be some common minimum standards that they have to adhere to.

Unfortunately, the UK government are unlikely to act any time soon. There is a need for some standards across the board for professional accommodation providers too. In my opinion, every type of accommodation should be required to be assessed by law. As it is, some of us choose to pay several hundred pound each year to be quality assessed by official tourism bodies such as the AA or Visit England, with our rating being 5 star – the top level. Within that, you can be awarded a Gold 5 star, meaning you are in the top 2% of all accommodation which we also achieved.

Unfortunately, many properties choose not to be rated at all. It’s also bizarrely possible to “self assess” as four star! This means that anyone can call themselves four star, regardless of their standards. Unless a rating is by an official body, don’t presume that the standards at a four star B&B will be consistent or realistic - check their assessment is genuine by looking them up on the websites of the AA or Visit England.

If everyone had to be assessed then everyone would be fairly pitted against each other, be checked to ensure they have the regulatory paperwork in order and all provide a minimum standard - making it better for consumers to know what they are getting and to be guaranteed to receive a certain standard in a safe manner.

Next time you book a B&B – check it is a B&B and check it has an official rating – that way you’re in with a fighting chance of having a good time whilst staying there.


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