Home Business Advice

Zoning Issues

Starting a home business? Be aware that zoning issues for home businesses can be a big distraction to your business plan. Make sure you understand the zoning issues in your area and how they will apply to your home business.

After years of dreaming, it's finally time to start your home business.

A major component of your business plan involves retrofitting your house so that the business can be home-based.

But wait a minute - will your town's zoning laws even allow you to operate your business from home? The answer is maybe. And maybe not . . . .

Zoning laws can be irritating, but they are designed to protect property owners by ensuring that properties within a district comply with the district's primary use designation. In other words, zoning laws ensure that residential districts remain primarily residential and new additions to the district don't interfere with the residents' enjoyment of their homes.

That's important to keep in mind, because (generally speaking) the litmus tests for a home-based business are that the business doesn't substantially affect the residential nature of your property and that the business doesn't interfere with the neighbors.

Although you should check with your municipality for specific zoning restrictions for your home, common zoning restrictions include the following:


Many municipalities dictate that only immediate family members living in the residence may participate in the operation of the business. in some cases, zoning codes may allow for one or two non-residential employees, but if you employ more than that it's almost a guarantee that you are in violation of code.


Typically, homeowners are restricted in their attempts to change the outside appearance of their homes to accommodate a home-based business. The big, neon sign is definitely out, but it might be possible to display a small sign on the outside of your home depending on the zoning laws in your district.


The rule of thumb for home-based business traffic is that business activities cannot substantially increase the amount of traffic that is common to the neighborhood. If your business draws a few people to your home each day, you are probably safe. Twenty customers a day, however, will probably set off bells and whistles with the zoning board.


It's not unusual for zoning laws to allow the storage of certain inventory items on-site. But there's a catch. Inventory is limited to the goods and products actually produced on the site. If your business involves buying wholesale products for resale, you will need to find another location to store your merchandise.


Although there are exceptions, your business will most likely require the operation of certain pieces of equipment. In a commercial neighborhood that's no big deal. But the use of business equipment in a residential neighborhood is a different story. Home-based businesses are restricted from using equipment that creates noise, glare, fumes, vibrations, or electrical interference that is detectable beyond your property line. Likewise, home-based businesses are usually not allowed to perform utility upgrades (beyond typical residential service) to facilitate the operation of equipment.

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