The inspection process starts when the inspector arrives at the property. They will look at the exterior appearance to make sure the paintwork is in good order and that the car-parking areas, paths and grounds are well-maintained and safe.
What you need to know about the inspection
Structural and Safety Requirements
Your establishment should be of substantial and durable construction, structurally safe, in good repair throughout and of suitable design. It should be in good decorative order and kept clean and well maintained throughout the property.
Consider provision of parking with due regard to neighbours, traffic regulations and the fact that guests will not wish to carry baggage for long distances.
This should be adequate for the reception of the number of guests. It must be well laid out and contain good quality furnishings, fittings and equipment and afford easy access to the public areas and bedrooms.
Display of Certificate and Charges
Your Tourism NI Certificate and scale of charges for accommodation must be prominently displayed, easily seen by visitors before, or immediately after, they enter. Where food other than breakfast and evening meals are provided, these meals should be identified and the charge shown. If your rates vary seasonally, or if there is any condition to be satisfied (e.g. age eligibility for children’s rates), or any other charges not included in the rate, then these must be displayed. All charges should be inclusive of VAT, where applicable.
A selection of current leaflets, brochures, maps and other literature relating to your locality should be available.
As well as the name, address and dates of arrival/departure, you are legally required to record each visitor’s nationality. Many establishments keep a book of comments for completion by guests on departure to record hints, recommendations and observations helpful to future visitors.
In addition to inviting guests to leave a comment in your visitor book, providers are encouraged to direct guests to online review sites or Social Media platforms to post a review of their experience. Customer reviews can highlight positive experiences; verified tips and useful observations. Generating positive feedback may influence potential customers when researching or booking accommodation.
Any house rules you wish to be observed or any other information which would be of interest to guests/potential guests e.g. WIFI code, should be brought to the guests’ attention at the earliest opportunity. It is also a good idea to check guests’ requirements at this time as some people may suffer from allergies (i.e. pets, nuts etc.). A guest information folder is a useful way to relay information and can be provided on guests’ arrival.
Breakfast and Evening Meals
A choice of what is offered for breakfast and evening meals should be given to all guests. Whilst many will look forward to the renowned Ulster Fry for breakfast, others will want a more continental offering of chilled fruit juices, breads, cheeses, fresh fruit and cereals, etc. A menu for evening meals/snack options should be made available to guests with the option to pre-order. Specialising in home cooking and using local produce, along with choice, quality, excellent service and hospitality, will all serve towards creating a memorable stay. Treating the customer as a special visitor ensures you and your Guest House will be remembered and recommended by all who visit.
The dining area must be sufficiently large to cater for the number of guests at separate tables who may reasonably be expected to use it at any one time. It must also have sufficient cutlery, condiments, napkins and crockery for the number of diners who may be expected to use it at any one time. This area must have solid tables, completely covered with a clean tablecloth, or surfaced with polished hardwood or veneer and comfortable, strong seats including high chairs (or suitably adapted chairs) for children. The ventilation must eliminate cooking smells from the kitchen. There must be carpeting or other suitable flooring and the area should be clean and in good decorative order.
The kitchen should be adjacent to the dining area. It should contain facilities equipment and fittings which are of good quality and condition, constructed of easily cleaned materials and adequate for the storage, refrigeration, preparation, cooking and service of food for the number of visitors and the storage and cleaning of all utensils. A separate laundry/utility room must also be provided in the establishment.
Provision should be made for the speedy disposal of waste into bins or other suitable containers which are regularly emptied. Cutlery, utensils and dinnerware should be of good quality. A separate laundry/utility room must also be provided.
A Guest House should have one or more lounges of adequate size for the number of guests, physically separated from the dining area(s) and it should contain sufficient furniture, fittings and equipment of good quality and condition for the number of guests.
These facilities may be shared by the host family, for watching television etc.
Rooms must be numbered, lettered or otherwise designated to identify them easily and should be of sufficient size to cater for the number of visitors the room is intended to hold.
Each bedroom should have separate access from a corridor, and the door must be lockable.
Each bedroom should have two power outlets for a heater, electric cleaner etc.
The rooms must contain furniture, fittings and equipment for sleeping and toilet purposes, and for the storage of visitors’ clothing. In general, these furnishings should include: beds, complete with interior sprung mattress; a supply of clean linen, blankets or duvets and pillows; loose or built-in units comprising wardrobe or cupboards, dressing table with mirror, and drawer space for clothes; bedside chair and table; wastepaper basket; carpet, or, if the floor surface is suitable, a bedside rug and window curtains/blinds which should ensure privacy and exclude light. The room must also have proper lighting.
Daily cleaning of rooms shall be carried out when visitors are resident.
Bedrooms are a vitally important area since your guests will spend more time in them than in any other part of your premises and Tourism NI would encourage the provision of high-quality en-suite facilities. Extra pillows and blankets should be made available on-demand and you should provide a hospitality tray.
Bathrooms & Toilets
Guest House establishments offering bedrooms which do not have en-suite bathrooms must provide at least one bathroom for every 10 visitors (or proportion of 10) and two suitably located toilets for the first 20 visitors, plus another toilet for every additional 10 people (or proportion of 10). The en-suite bathroom should contain a bath or shower, a toilet and a washbasin of good quality and in good condition.
It is worth investing in high-quality fixtures, towels and equipment such as hairdryers. All bathrooms should have plumbing in good working order to ensure a continuous supply of hot and cold running water and the disposal of wastewater. They should also have an effective means of natural or mechanical ventilation. Bathrooms and toilets should be equipped with a mirror, towel rails, clothes hooks, bath mat, plus an ample supply of toilet requisites, including towels, soap and toilet paper. Hot water should be available at all reasonable times; you should have a system of water heating which copes with peak demands.
Sleeping accommodation which is separate from that for visitors and clearly identified as such must be provided for the use of the hosts, their family and any resident staff.
Other criteria, such as the need for the Guest House to be under the supervision of the proprietor, and to be adequately staffed to maintain appropriate standards of service at all reasonable times, must be observed.
High expectations among your customers will require the hosts to provide levels of service and attention appropriate to a modern Guest House establishment. The statutory criteria relating to the need for the proprietor to be ‘trained or experienced in the management of a Guest House establishment’ may not be strictly enforced, at the Board’s discretion, as an encouragement to new start-ups. However, hosts should make every effort to undertake training courses and gain experience as soon as possible.