Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Mornflake Oats
The very things that might provide a great setting for a Texas bed and breakfast (B&B), such as a picturesque area, a safe, residential neighborhood or a historic location, also require paying careful attention to local and county zoning regulations, and laws concerning open space, traffic, parking and sign restrictions. Texas has a state organization, The Texas Bed and Breakfast Association (TBBA) and several regional organizations to steer new and even experienced innkeepers through the maze of regulations and business practices from bookkeeping to marketing that make for a successful and profitable bed and breakfast operation.
Bed and breakfasts continue a longstanding American tradition of offering rooms to rent to travelers. During the Great Depression, homeowners would put out a "Guest" sign and travelers might pay as much as $2 for a room, cheaper than a Depression-era hotel and a source of income for the host.
In the years after World War II, many Americans visited European bed and breakfasts and got the idea of renting out rooms and offering breakfast to travelers, but the idea of using historic properties did not begin to catch on until the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 made it possible to register and preserve significant districts, sites and buildings, and The Tax Reform Act of 1976 provided tax incentives to restore historic structures and reuse them.
Modern bed and breakfast operations in Texas evolved slowly, and as late as 1997 a University of North Texas survey found that while 60 percent of owner/operators knew about state laws such as the hotel tax, half that number or fewer knew about county and city regulations such as zoning, health, building and fire codes.
Those who want to open a bed and breakfast can find the state laws or statutes at the local library. The county clerk can help find the local regulations that would apply to a B&B, such zoning, health and fire safety laws. A hearing before a local zoning board may be necessary so a B&B operator can explain how many guest rooms are involved, how it will impact the appearance of the neighborhood, parking, traffic, exterior lighting and signage issues.
The Texas Bed and Breakfast Association (TBBA) offers a comprehensive Resource Manual for $75 entitled "Innkeeping in Texas." This manual covers everything needed to start a bed and breakfast in Texas--business basics, small business loans, bookkeeping, rating organizations, newsletters, and government agencies (with telephone numbers included). It also includes what a B&B owner needs to know about the Texas Health & Safety Code and "Americans with Disabilities Act" (ADA), signs to post in rooms for limited liability and room rates. The guide covers licensing, fees and taxes specific to Texas as well as federal requirements, insurance, marketing and information about dealing with vendors.
By contrast to the Texas Bed and Breakfast Association Resource Manual, access to Innkeeper's Statutes for all 50 states can cost $49 for the website information or $99, for the printouts, with no Texas local guidance included.
Lynne Murray has over 40 years writing experience, with publications including mystery novels and an interview with Darlene Cates, of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." Murray received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from San Francisco State University. She's conducted workshops at the Open Education Exchange and Southwestern Writers Conference.