When starting a home-based business, you must first determine if you can legally operate a business from your house. Local zoning laws may restrict the type of business, if any, allowed in a neighborhood. Even when there are zoning restrictions, a variance can usually be granted, allowing an exception to operate. It is often a matter of whether or not a business will be a nuisance to other homeowners. Use these seven guidelines to consider whether or not your home business is allowable.
1. TrafficMost often, neighbors are the one to complain to Zoning Boards that your homebased business is a nuisance and traffic is often at the root of the problem. Heavy foot traffic or excessive traffic from vehicles are considered problematic. This is especially true if clients, vendors, or delivery vehicles significantly increase the amount of traffic on your street, or parked cars block a neighbors driveway or their visibility from their yard or driveway. However, if clients or vendors occasionally meet at your home, it should not be an issue.
2. SignageWill your homebased business require signage? Most zoning laws restrict or limit the use of business signage within a neighborhood. Neon signs and other electric signs are often strictly prohibited. Another consideration is the location of the signage. Is it attached to your house or placed in your yard? How close is the sign to the street? Does it interfere with neighbors? The best solution is to avoid using signage completely.
3. EmployeesHaving employees work out of your home on a full-time basis may prevent you from being allowed to operate a homebased business. It is often considered a nuisance to have additional cars parked in your drive or street, and also contributes to increased foot traffic. As an alternative, employees who telecommute or only meet at your home infrequently should not be a problem.
4. Selling DirectAny type of business in which you are selling products direct from your home would be at risk of falling under tight zoning restrictions. In this case, the issue is operating a retail-type of establishment from your home that requires customers to come into your house to shop or pick up the items or products.
5. Noise and PollutionWhether or not the operation of a homebased business is allowed is often tied to the amount of noise and/or pollution associated with it. Operating heavy equipment, for example, would be prohibitied. On the other hand, most consulting-type of businesses are permissable since the work occurs in an office setting inside the home.
6. Hazardous MaterialsSelling or storing dangerous chemicals or other hazardous chemicals at your homebased business typically violates most zoning regulations. Anything that could jeapordize the safety of your home, or those of your neighbors, would not be permissable.
7. General NuisanceAnything associated with your business that could be considered a nuisance to the neighborhood can be closely scrutinized as part of zoning laws. For example, excessive amounts of trash, frequent deliveries by commercial trucks and having to put up storage facilities to hold merchandise could all be considered a general nuisance as a result of your homebased business operations. Typically, if your homebased business does not bother your neighbors, or it is not apparent that you are even operating a business, it would not be considered a nuisance under zoning laws.