Home-Based Businesses Challenges for Today’s Co-ops, Condos and HOAs

Dana Greco, a therapist specializing in marriage counseling and divorce mediation lived in a comfortable two bedroom co-op on New York’s Upper West Side near Columbia University.  Divorced herself and with grown children, her apartment was empty most of the day. She saw no reason not to see patients in her living room rather than rent shared therapist space at ever increasing monthly charges.  Living on the ground floor next to the entrance doors, she would escort her patients into her apartment as soon as they buzzed the building front door.  One day she received a letter from the managing agent instructing her that she was to cease and desist running her practice from her home.  

According to U.S. Small Business Administration statistics, over half of all small businesses begun in the last decade have been home-based—that’s more than 38 million in real numbers—with a new home-based business being launched every 12 seconds. And according to U.S. Census figures, over 100,000 New Yorkers work from home, with more switching all the time. Home-based businesses (HBB) earn more than $427 billion per year.

The Garden State

Regulations in New Jersey are harder to pin down as ordinances tend to be issued on the municipal level and there are hundreds of municipalities (565 to be exact) in New Jersey.  A website at www.centraljersey.score.org, which provides public information for people interested in opening a business in central New Jersey, has a web page dedicated to home-based businesses.  They advise potential home-based businesses to check with the regulations in their individual towns and communities and caution that in some communities starting a home-based business may bring you into contact with the county assessor.  In some counties a tax is assessed on business furniture and equipment.  They also point out that “many of the laws that apply to HBBs were enacted long ago and were meant to keep noisy, smelly, high-traffic activities out of residential neighborhoods.  Yet today, they are being applied across the board to quiet computer consultants as well as the noisy, smelly businesses.”

New York City

Restrictions on home-based businesses vary from municipality to municipality and from state to state.  In New York City, there are various restrictions already in place that apartment-dwellers must follow, from location to size and, of course, what type of business it is and what they can sell.  

New York City’s zoning resolutions strictly prohibit advertising or public relations agencies,  barber shops, beauty parlors, commercial stables or kennels, depilatory,  electrolysis, or similar offices, interior decorators’ offices or workshops,  ophthalmic dispensing, pharmacy, real estate or insurance offices,  stockbrokers’ offices, and veterinary medicine and especially, daycare businesses, which would be unacceptable, primarily due to fire regulations.  Additionally, regulations don’t permit any home business with multiple employees or that require numerous deliveries.

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