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.

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.

For example, according to the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) zoning resolution, home businesses cannot sell articles produced off-premises.  They can’t have outside signs or a display of goods that are visible from the outside.  The business can’t store materials or products outside of a principal or accessory building or other structure or in certain districts, display a nameplate or other sign except as permitted in connection with the practice of a profession.  According to the DCP, businesses cannot make external structural alterations which are not customary in residential buildings, or cause offensive noise, vibration, smoke, dust or other particulate matter, odorous matter, heat, humidity, glare, or other objectionable effects.  

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