Zoning Questions Quiz Home Officers

Jeff Zbar

Q. I am thinking about starting a home-based business. What types of operating licenses are required?

A. Most cities and some counties require registration of at-home businesses. This often includes some form of permitting fee. While some argue as unduly burdensome the placing of a fee on a residence that doubles as a workplace, it still exists for many SOHO'ers to bear.

That said, review this checklist of places to call or visit to see what's required in your area:


  • Does your city allow the home-based business you're considering opening? Review ordinances at the City Clerk's office to learn what's allowed or restricted. Most "white collar" jobs, like business analysts or consultants, attorneys, writers, graphic designers and the like, are permitted. Even seamstresses, plumbers, carpenters and other contractors are allowed - mostly because they do the "labor" portion of their work on a job site elsewhere, while doing their business management from the home office. Any job that requires storage of materials or raw goods, assembly of products, or other forms of manufacturing - especially those that create a noise or smell noticeable to your neighbors - aren't allowed in suburban or residential areas. You'll probably need a city occupational license or permit.


  • Next, call the county office to inquire about an occupational license or other permits issued by that office.


  • Does your planned development, homeowner's association, property deed or title prohibit or restrict home-based businesses? Before buying a home, have an attorney read the deed or title to determine any restrictions or limitations. Same goes for rental homes or apartments.


  • If restrictions exist, talk with the city economic development manager, community relations staffer or elected officials. Many cities have depressed areas in need of rejuvenation, and can help accomplish the task by facilitating home-based business ventures. And many restrictions exist because no one say fit to change them after decades on the books. With the surge in at-home businesses, many cities need only a slight nudge to get them along on the path to change.

    © 2000 Jeffery D. Zbar Inc.

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