Are You In The Zone?

By: Joanie Ogg CTC MCC

Some home based businesses fail to give attention to getting permits and licenses for their business. It is one of those things that we think will never be a necessity and likely never a bump in the road for our home-based travel businesses. How likely will it be that a neighbor or someone else will report this to the authorities? Well, sadly it happens all to often and it is prudent to be in the know about your local zoning and permit requirements. Don’t get caught in that mode of thinking, as it may actually be required by law to fulfill the necessary paperwork, etc. for your business. Do your homework to assure a problem free business set up. Be sure you are in the Zone!

Before you start your business, check with your local government to know what permits and licenses are needed by your business. Your business may be required to have one or more of the following licenses or permits.

A Business License
Simply check with the local city and county governments in your area to find out if permits and or licenses are needed to operate legally from your area. Things such as zoning clearance permits, parking permits if customers will be coming to your home office and maybe even sign permits may be required. Permits are often based on the type of business you operate and generally a travel business is considered what they phrase as a Low-impact business. This would be a home business that has very little impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Examples of typical business practices would be use of a telephone, computer modem or high-speed access, mail, use of a fax. Clients or customers rarely come to the place of business and deliveries to the business are not frequent.

Zoning Permits
This is a very important are to check into as many residential areas have zoning regulations that do not even allow an home based business to operate in the community. This is rare but we have seen examples where agents have been faced with this dilemma so be sure to check it out and be in the zone. Local governments may not bother with you if you work quietly at home in a small office but neighbors are usually the one’s who trigger complaints, so just be aware of that. Again, this is an easy thing to check out with your county or city government.

Be sure that before you hire a contractor to add on office space to your home that you call your zoning board or the planning department to request a copy of the jurisdiction ordinance. This information is actually available at your local library as well. It is always better to be on the safe side, especially when it pertains to your businesses success and future.

Some other interesting general provisions are contained in a great book called “The Complete Home Office: Planning Your Workspace for Maximum Efficiency” by Alvin Rosenbaum. Here are some examples of interesting and important facts to be found in his book

No traffic will be generated by such home occupations in greater volumes than would normally be expected in a residential neighborhood.

No equipment or process will be used by such home occupation, which creates noise, vibration, glare, fumes, or electrical interference detectable to the normal senses off the lot. (OK:. We should be ok on this one in travel unless of course the neighbors complain when we hoot and holler after booking a world cruise!

There can be no change in the outside appearance, other than a small sign (this may not be allowed so check on this) not exceeding one square foot in the area, non-illuminated and mounted flat against the wall of the principle building.

The use of the dwelling for the home business should be clearly incidental and subordinate to its use for residential purposes.

Only family members residing on the premises may be engaged in the business. Some jurisdictions even state that no more than one or two persons other than a family member may even be employed! (I think some might want to be cautious on this one as I know many home based agencies have folks working in their home business with them.)

So before you start up your home-based business, get the blessings of your local government first. Better safe than sorry is the motto to follow to assure success of your home-based travel business!