Zoning Laws for Home-Based Businesses

Believe it or not, starting a home-based business could mean that you are breaking the law without knowing it. Zoning laws that affect home-based businesses differ by state, county and city, and it is important to learn the zoning laws before opening your home-based business.

First, find out what government body regulates businesses in your area. Read up on the laws that govern zoning and home-based businesses, and determine whether you are breaking any of them.

Generally speaking, zoning laws that govern home-based businesses refer to businesses that have non-family-member employees or that take walk-up business. For example, if you are operating a hair salon out of your home, then you may be subject to zoning laws because customers come to your residence for services.

Similarly, if you have hired an assistant to come to your home for general administrative work, you could also be in violation of zoning laws.

You might think that you cannot be discovered even if you do have employees or walk-up customers, but often it is neighbors of businesses that report their practices to the zoning commission. If your customers are making noise, arriving at all hours of the night, or taking up parking space, your neighbors may be inclined to report your business.

The most pro-active way to deal with this issue is to consult with your neighbors before opening your business. Explain the nature of your home-based business and ask whether or not it will be a problem. Often, this will make your neighbors feel more comfortable and they will not cause problems.

There are also laws that refer to “space percentage”, which applies if the amount of space you are using for your home-based business is greater than the space utilized for general living. For example, if you living room, dining room and two bedrooms are used for business purposes, you might have a problem.

Also, you might be violating zoning laws if your merchandise is not approved for home-based businesses. Certain chemicals, fertilizers, animals and the like are not permitted for home-based businesses.

And finally, you might be in violation of zoning laws if you have a sign in your yard or on your house which advertises your business. Some communities do not allow that type of advertising, and there are zoning laws in certain areas that prevent it, as well.

To safeguard your home, yourself and your home-based business, research zoning laws extensively and if you have a question, ask your local zoning commission. If enough people in your community oppose the laws, written requests to change them may do some good.

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