Will Your Home-Based Business Violate HOA Rules?

Posted on: October 23, 2013

Buying a home or condo that’s governed by a homeowners’ association can complicate life. Many buyers don’t realize that the rules cover everything from what color you can paint your house, to whether you can have dogs – and what size or breed. But one consideration that’s getting more important in today’s world of telecommuting and electronic freelancing is whether the HOA has rules against home-based businesses. If you’re thinking of buying a home or condo governed by an HOA, make sure you understand their rules on home-based businesses, and whether those rules will impact you.


What Do the HOA Docs Say about Home-Based Business?

Some HOAs use a very general restriction that states owners can use their units for “residential purposes only.” Others have more specific restrictions, which state what constitutes a home-based business, and whether there are any rules or exemptions to the clause.


In general, if you’re running a home-based business that doesn’t impact your neighbors, you may get away with it even if the HOA docs say otherwise. The purpose of these types of restrictions are to prevent things like employees coming and going, increased vehicle traffic, a slew of deliveries, noise and other problems caused by a “home business.” Also, in today’s hi-tech world, home businesses can also sometimes cause issues with telephone, television or Internet-access. In general, if a home business doesn’t cause any of these issues, the HOA may not choose to or be legally able to enforce the rule.


Check Out Local Regulations and Ordinances

For further confirmation, check out any local town or municipality rules on home-based businesses. One county code of ordinances, for example, specifies that business use must not show any visible evidence. The business use must be “clearly incidental and subordinate to its use for residential purposes by its occupants and shall under no circumstances change the residential character of the community.” This particular ordinance also limits the size of the property that can be used for storage and operation of the business – i.e. no more than 10% of the home – and prohibits customers and employees from coming to the home.


If you’re not certain about how the HOA rules would affect you, check your town or municipality ordinances. And it never hurts to consult your lawyer about the HOA docs before you buy.


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