Tourist accommodation certification
Details of the Tourism NI certification process and statutory inspections for accommodation start-ups
If you intend to offer tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland, you must apply to Tourism NI to have your premises certified.
You must have certification under the Tourism (NI) Order 1992. This makes it illegal to offer tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland without having a valid Tourism NI certificate for your premises.
To get the certificate, you will need to apply to Tourism NI who then inspect your premises and either allocate it a statutory accommodation category or, if you don't meet the criteria, refuse certification.
This guide explains the certification process for new tourist businesses, accommodation categories, statutory inspections and how to appeal if Tourism NI refuses to certify your business.
Tourist accommodation categories that need certification
There are eight categories of tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland. These are:
- bed and breakfast establishments
- guest accommodation
- self-catering establishments
- bunk houses/camping barns
- campus accommodation
Tourism laws set out minimum requirements for each of the categories, such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, facilities, amenities or services provided. You must fulfil the minimum criteria to be allocated to one of the categories.
A statutory inspection, carried out by Tourism NI, will determine whether your premises meet the criteria laid down for your category.
Existing businesses will have to be inspected at least once every four years, to ensure they still meet the minimum standards. See inspections of certified tourist accommodation.
Changing tourist accommodation categories
If you already run a tourist accommodation business, but wish to change your premises to a different category, you will need to apply to Tourism NI. Your premises will be re-inspected. If you meet the required minimum standard for the new category, a new certificate will be issued. If you are an existing tourism accommodation provider, you can apply to change accommodation category online [registration required].
Get your tourist accommodation certified
The process of applying for tourist accommodation certification from Tourism NI and getting your premises inspected
You must be certified by Tourism NI if you provide tourist accommodation. The law requires you to have a valid Tourism NI certificate to run your tourism accommodation business legally. If you don't have the certificate, you risk getting fined up to £2,500, imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both.
Before applying for a certificate
To become a certified tourist accommodation provider, you will need to consider other legal requirements such as planning permissions, fire compliance and registering your private water supply.
You can learn more about these in our guides:
- legal requirements for tourist establishments
- get the right licences for your tourist business
- tourist accommodation: reselling electricity, gas and utilities
Applying for certification
You can apply for certification online. You will need to send a relevant inspection fee, as well as any other documentation required along with your application.
When Tourism NI receives your application, you will be appointed a Quality & Standards (Q&S) Officer. The officer will carry out an inspection of your premises. You will get a letter advising you of this, and a phone call from the Q&S Officer letting you know the date of your inspection.
After the inspection, Tourism NI will either approve or refuse the issue of a certificate. In some cases, they may give conditions to the certificate, such as additional work to be carried out to the property. You will be given a set time to carry out this work.
If your property doesn't meet the criteria for the accommodation category you are applying for, your application will be refused. You will be served a notice detailing the reasons for refusal. If you don't agree with Tourism NI's decision to refuse to issue a certificate, you can appeal - see appealing your tourist accommodation inspection outcome.
It generally takes between 4-8 weeks from when you apply to obtain the notification or refusal of a certificate. The length of time will depend on your availability and the inspectors' existing schedules.
Conditions of your certification
If your premises meets the minimum requirement standards, your premises will become a certified tourist establishment and you may begin trading.
You must display your certificate in your premises in a visible place around the entrance. You must comply with any conditions attached to a certificate, including informing Tourism NI if the owner changes and maintaining a visitor register. See keeping a guest register.
To maintain your certification, you will also need to allow Tourism NI to carry out statutory inspection of your premises at least once every four years. Occasionally there will also be ad hoc inspections. See statutory inspections of certified tourist accommodation.
Inspections of certified tourist accommodation
Tourism NI inspects certified tourist accommodation every four years and also carries out ad-hoc inspections
Tourism NI carries out statutory inspections of tourist accommodation premises in Northern Ireland at least once every four years. This is to ensure that established businesses continue to provide at least the statutory minimum standards fitting to their accommodation category.
Access the statutory inspection schedule.
These statutory inspections incur fees which you will need to cover.
In each of the three years between, you will need to complete a statutory review form. You will usually be given a 30 days notice to submit your yearly statutory review form to Tourism NI.
Tourism NI can also carry out ad hoc inspections of your premises as part of their monitoring remit, or upon receiving visitor complaints. These do not incur a fee and do not impact on the four year inspection cycle for your premises.
What happens after inspection?
If Tourism NI determines that, after an inspection or a statutory review, your establishment meets the prescribed minimum standards, it will be confirmed in its category.
However, you may be served with a notice revoking your certificate if:
- after inspection or statutory review, Tourism NI finds that your accommodation no longer meets criteria for its particular category
- you fail to comply with a notice to provide a self-review statement
- you refuse to allow your premises to be inspected on two occasions
If Tourism NI revokes your existing certificate, you will not be able to continue trading legally. You may request a review of this decision within seven days from the date on which the notice of refusal or revocation is issued. See appealing your tourist accommodation inspection outcome.
Appealing your tourist accommodation inspection outcome
If Tourism NI refuse or revoke your tourist accommodation certification you can appeal the decision
If your premises fail to meet the minimum statutory standards for your chosen accommodation category, Tourism NI will either:
- refuse to issue you a certificate if you are a new business, or
- revoke the existing certificate if you are an established business
Either way, you will not be able to trade legally without a valid Tourism NI certificate.
When you're served with a notice of refusal or revocation, you can request a review of the decision within seven days from the date notice is issued. On review of the notice, Tourism NI will allow you to be heard in person, or by counsel or solicitors. Following the review, Tourism NI may withdraw the notice and issue a certificate or confirm the issue of the notice.
If the notice is confirmed, you may further appeal against the notice to the county court. On appeal, the county court may either allow the appeal, order Tourism NI to issue a certificate, or dismiss the appeal. The decision of the county court on an appeal is final.
Deregister your certified tourist accommodation
You should inform Tourism NI if your wish to stop trading as a tourist accommodation provider
If you no longer wish to trade as a tourist accommodation provider, you will need to inform the Tourism NI Quality & Standards Unit. You can call the Tourism NI Quality & Standards Unit on Tel 028 9044 1545 or email them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deregistering your premises with Tourism NI will withdraw your certificate and you will no longer be able to offer tourist accommodation legally.
Should you wish to begin trading again at a later date, you will need to re-apply for tourist accommodation certification with Tourism NI.