by Chris Hinson
Whether you are starting a brand new business or moving your existing business to a new location, you need to make sure that the place you choose is zoned for your use. You may be surprised to find that the location you thought was zoned appropriately for your business is not. Make sure you know the zoning status of your business location before you are committed to the spot.
If you are considering running your small business from home, you should be aware that there may be zoning restrictions that limit the types of business activities you can engage in at home. If you thought you could do whatever you wanted to in your own home here comes your first surprise. Certain types of businesses won't be allowed at all. You may not be able to operate a retail sales business from your home. You probably won't be able to engage in manufacturing or repair vehicles either. You might not be able to have employees who do not also live at your house. You will probably not be able to put up a sign for your business. There may be other restrictions as well. Contact your local zoning authority to find out what is or isn't allowed in your area. Even with all of the restrictions, there are a lot of businesses that can be operated from home.
If you are looking for a business location other than your home, you need to consider zoning as well. Not all commercial areas are zoned for every commercial use. You may not be able to open up your bookstore where the doctor's office used to be. You don't want to sign a lease until you know for sure. Don't rely on the real estate agent or building owner to give you accurate information either. Check with the zoning authority yourself, or have an agent who works for you, do it for you.
Even if you are thinking of locating in a space that was occupied by the same type of business you intend to operate, you need to check out the zoning. New zoning laws may have been passed after the previous occupants started using the premises. These laws would not necessarily apply to a current occupant, but they will apply to you, the new occupant. That is the just the kind of surprise you want to avoid.
When you check into zoning you may find that you can use the location you had in mind with some adjustments. You may need to change the size of the sign, provide more parking, provide different lighting, provide better access to the disabled, or make some other alteration. It is better to find out what changes will be necessary and to investigate the cost, before you commit to a certain location. With this information you will be better able to negotiate for the space, including who will pay to make it comply with zoning requirements.