Zoning, Lease, and Homeowners Association Restrictions Affecting Your Home Business

Depending on where you live, zoning laws, lease restrictions, or subdivision or condominium rules (“covenants, conditions, and restrictions,” or CC&Rs) may affect your ability to run your eBay business from your home. For example, zoning laws may limit or prohibit employees working in your home (other than domestic help), limit noise levels (typically by imposing “quiet hours” in the evening and early morning), or prohibit any enterprise that would increase traffic or competition for scarce parking spaces. You can find the zoning laws that apply to your neighborhood by checking with your local zoning office, usually located at city hall or your county government offices. You can also try phoning your local zoning department. Some towns have zoning maps and zoning ordinances online (and also in local libraries).

If you are renting your living space and have never read your lease, now would be the time. If you are a member of a condominium or subdivision association, review your CC&Rs before converting your living space to a commercial enterprise. Finally, if you are leasing from someone and the property is subject to CC&Rs, you will need to read both the lease and the CC&Rs.

If prohibitions apply, you might be able to get around them by applying for a variance (an exception), although you will need to get your neighbors to buy into this idea. For a zoning variance, you will likely have to go through a public process involving your community's planning commission, which can be a lengthy and expensive process. If the restrictions are limited in a lease, get your landlord to sign off. With the CC&Rs, you'll likely need to get approval of the condominium or homeowners' association that governs the property. Be prepared to offer something up for the agreement of your neighbors — for example, creating more parking in the area or limiting your work hours.

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