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.  


Chicago’s regulations are quite similar.  The ordinance does not permit direct sale of any product or display racks.  Bulk deliveries must be limited to one per day and may occur only between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.  There are restrictions on the number of patrons that may be present at any one time and during a 24-hour period.  The list of prohibited uses is very similar to that outlined above for the New York City ordinance.  Additionally, Chicago charges $250 for a home occupation license which must be renewed every two years.


Florida regulations are less stringent. Gloria Moreda, manager of the Land Development Coordination office in the Tampa, Florida zoning office, reported that, “home occupation is permitted in Tampa.  It is referred to as special services and includes professional home offices, crafts and a one chair beauty salon.”  That differs from the New York and Chicago ordinances, which don’t allow beauty salons or similar uses.  She went on to say though that, “no equipment is permitted that would inconvenience neighbors.  No employees other than family members and no more than 25% of floor area of a home or apartment may be used for the business.  There can be no more foot traffic than is customary and no more than five customers a day by appointment only,” which mirrors the ordinances in New York and Chicago.


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