Q: I want to start a business at home, but the landlord refused to even listen to my request. Why would he care? How can I change his mind?
A: Since there are hundreds of home-based business possibilities, the landlord may be wary of what your home-based business may bring, including outside visitors, noise and undue stress on neighboring residents.
Other concerns might include insurance claims, increased costs for utilities, fire and safety issues, and businesses that violate the law.
Businesses that involve outside employees sometimes pose a problem to other tenants, since having strangers coming and going on a regular basis, including delivery personnel, is not the usual reason people live in residential housing. Increased noise and foot traffic annoys some tenants, causing landlords to deal with unhappy residents.
Speaking of noise, some home-based businesses can rattle more than the neighbor’s nerves. One tenant started a talent agency in her living room, bringing a host of prospective talent. When the singing auditions began, the sound of wailing voices caused some neighbors to cover their ears and reach for their telephones. Combined with loud music, the business was a poor choice for a residential area, and was soon asked to leave.
Extra employees, if required, also take up parking spaces on the block, causing frustration for residents hunting for parking themselves. Unlike commercial neighborhoods, residential areas are rarely equipped to handle additional traffic and parking usage.
Insurance concerns and liability issues may have your landlord balking at the idea of doing business at home. If someone slips and falls while visiting your business, who will pay the claim? Fire hazard can also ignite tension and liability concerns.
Over the years, some cities and communities have enacted strict regulations for home-based businesses, otherwise known as “Home Occupations.”
For example, in Santa Monica, Calif., the list of prohibited home occupations, rental or otherwise, covers nearly a dozen business categories. Included are animal hospitals or grooming facilities, hair salons, carpentry or cabinet making, dancing or exercise studios, firearm dealerships, junkyards and massage parlors. Medical offices, clinics or laboratories are prohibited as well. Exceptions include one-on-one therapists, assuming fewer than six clients pay a visit within 24 hours.
In Lynwood, Va., definitions are more exact, pulling the plug on any business that “produces noise, vibrations, smoke, dust, glare or traffic which are not normally found in residential use.” Businesses can only be conducted indoors, with only 25 percent of the floor area devoted to the business.
Even innocent yard sales are regulated in some areas. In Alhambra, Calif., yard sales may not occur more than twice per calendar year. The sale cannot exceed two days in a row, held between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Selling new or homemade merchandise is prohibited. “Violations are subject to immediate closure of the sale and a possible Misdemeanor Criminal Complaint being filed with the City Attorney’s Office, which requires a court appearance.”
Some businesses are downright illegal for other reasons. Common sense would explain why any illegal activity such as drug dealing or pursuit of ill repute is prohibited, but why would a hair salon be illegal? Due to health department regulations, the styling, grooming or tending to hair is illegal for home-based businesses in most jurisdictions.
Surprisingly, opening up a daycare facility is perfectly legal in most areas. While some landlord’s may not be thrilled with the prospect of tricycles tooling around the property, they can only restrict the use of common areas, if the rules applies universally to all tenants on the property.
In Washington state, daycare facilities require a State Child Day Care License in addition to a Condition Use Permit fee starting at $1,155. Operating a home-based business requires proper licensing and payment of fees in many areas.
Still sold on a home-based business? After doing your research and proving your idea is legal, quiet and benefits the community, how can you change the landlord’s mind?
Perhaps explaining that being home-based, you are home more often and able to keep an eye on the property. Consider offering to sign for packages or let in service personnel, such as the plumber. If your business requires the use of more utilities, offer to pay for the increased costs. Proof of separate insurance, including fire and theft, may prove persuasive.
By working with your landlord, hopefully you’ll be able to cut down on commuting, save time, earn money, and have more time for family and friends.