Home Business

Working at Home and Law Part 1

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

Do you know the zoning laws of your area? Are you operating your business illegally? If you work at home there will be laws that dictate what you can and can't do. Do you know what they are?

Working at home provides a great career solution for many people -- but before you make your house your work place, check to see if zoning laws will allow you to run your business in your area.

Despite the fact that millions of people work at home on a part of full time basis in the United States, there are still archaic zoning laws in place in some areas that make it illegal to operate a home business.

Even in areas where home companies are permitted the laws can enforce limitations on:

  • the kinds of businesses that can be run
  • the number of non-related employees permitted on the property
  • and the square footage of space that can be allotted as work space in the home - this is usually an agreed percentage of the total square footage of the property.

If you knowingly operate your home business without acknowledging legal guidelines, you are breaking the law even if your business is unobtrusive. The worst case scenario is if a complaint is registered from a neighbor.

When a complaint is registered, a home business owner may be obliged to pay fines and to cease operations with immediate effect.

Not abiding by the law following a warning or fines can result in criminal charges being pressed and ultimately a possibly jail sentence.

Admittedly, it is rare that a jail sentence is given for operating an illegitimate concern but it does happen. Sometimes the offence can seem innocuous enough.

If for example you offer swimming lessons in your home pool, you could be operating outside of the zoning law. Even running a mailing order business, child care, telemarketing, PC consultation, public relations, and direct selling companies might all be forbidden depending on the laws of your community.

In some areas it is acceptable for the following professionals to practice from home:

  • doctors
  • lawyers
  • architectural engineers
  • dental practitioners
  • accountants
  • seamstresses
  • milliners
  • tutors
  • child care workers

Even when certain professions are allowed to practice there may be legal restrictions regarding the amount of hours they can work.

For obvious reasons, many people are now questioning the logic of zoning laws and the powers that be are gradually making changes to the legislation. These changes will most likely concern the list of acceptable business being more realistic.

Sometimes it is other residents who are averse to the idea of their neighbors operating business. They harbor worries about property values being blighted by commercial activity. It's hard to see where the cut off point should be regarding which types of businesses are acceptable and which are not.

Some business, by nature, generate noise or smells or present an eyesore or represent dangers - it's easy to understand why people are not in favor of them.

However, how far need the law go?

Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

Share this article

Additional Resources for Entrepreneurs

Lists of Venture Capital and Private Equity Firms

Franchise Opportunities


Business Glossary


Conversation Board

We greatly appreciate any advice you can provide on this topic. Please contribute your insights on this topic so others can benefit.

Leave a Reply

Questions, Comments, Tips, and Advice

Email will not be posted or shared
Code Image - Please contact webmaster if you have problems seeing this image code

Problem Viewing Image? Load New Code