Home-based Business Zoning Police

Yesterday’s post was about IRS laws, so we thought follow-up with some advice on a related home-based business topic: zoning laws.

Just so ya know, you could be breaking the law by simply starting a home-based business!

Zoning laws are determined by your city or your county, depending on where you live, so start by finding who establishes your zoning laws, and then familiarize yourself with their regulations.

If you plan on running a home-based business that will have no employees and no walk-up customers, the zoning question may never arise. Usually it’s complaints from neighbors that bring home-based businesses to the attention of zoning boards. If employees and customers are seen going in and out of your home, or taking up parking spaces that would normally be used by residents, you could run into problems with the zoning commission.

In addition to complaints from your neighbors, you can also run into trouble if the amount of space your business takes up in your home is greater than the actual living area. This is referred to as "space percentage," and while it can be difficult to determine exactly how much space your home business occupies, it can lead to a zoning issue. Frequent deliveries by big trucks isn’t going to go over well neighbors either.

The type of merchandise you are selling may also be restricted in a residential area. This commonly only applies to businesses dealing with chemicals, such as fertilizer, but it may affect other types of business as well.

If you’re trying to keep a low profile and avoid zoning issues, don’t go posting a sign on the front lawn. Simply posting a sign for your business may breach of zoning laws.

If all else fails, consider having zoning laws changed. It’s not unusual to have laws established 100 years ago still in effect that make your business illegal even when what you’re doing is common practice by modern standards.

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