by Anne Lane
If you're planning on operating your small business from home, you need to check out your local zoning restrictions first. You may think nothing of operating your business from your home, but there are zoning restrictions that apply to home-based businesses. How will anyone know if you are operating a business from your home? Depending on the type of business, your neighbors may learn about it and complain if they don't like it. You may also find that zoning approval for your business location is part of obtaining your business license.
Certain types of business are not permitted to be home-based businesses. You should check with your local zoning authority to find out whether your type of business is permitted. Examples of types of businesses that may not be permitted in some localities are manufacturing, retail sales, and auto repair shops. These types of businesses are restricted because of the detrimental impact they have on a residential area. Manufacturing may be prohibited because of the potential for noise, retail sales because of the traffic it might create, and auto repair shops might create an eyesore for neighbors.
If your business is a type that can be operated as a home-based business, you will still be subject to certain rules and regulations. In addition to zoning requirements, many neighborhoods are subject to restrictive covenants or homeowner's association rules. There may be limitations on visits from customers or clients. There may also be restrictions on the percentage or total amount of your home's square footage that can be used for the business. Parking on the street may be limited or prohibited. You may or may not be permitted to have outside employees come to work in your home. Signs, if permitted, are usually restricted in size.
Be prepared to answer questions about these types of activities when you apply for zoning. If your business has a problem with just one of these areas, perhaps you can change the way you do things in order to comply with the zoning requirement. For example, you might be able to make arrangements to meet with clients at some other place to avoid problems with parking or traffic. You should also try to develop good relationships with your neighbors. That way you can reassure them that your business won't be a detriment to the neighborhood. If they feel they can express their concerns to you directly, about parking, traffic, noise, etc., they are far less likely to complain to the local authorities. They are sure to understand your desire to earn a living as long as you understand their desire to live in a pleasant neighborhood.