Operating a Home-Based Business from Your Condo or Co-Op

Condominium or co-op residents thinking of starting a home-based business should review the rules and regulations of the condominium association prior to operating a business out of their unit. All multi-family housing units, such as a condominium or a co-op, have rules and regulations that restrict activities within a building. These rules and regulations are most commonly referred to as "bylaws" and they may not allow you to operate certain types of businesses inside a unit.

In addition to reading your condo bylaws, you also need to be aware of any city ordinances where you live regarding the types of businesses that must be housed in commercial or industrial zoning areas. Even if the condo association’s bylaws permit the operation of a home-based business, city ordinances may restrict certain types of businesses from operating in a multi-family housing unit. Most often, home-based businesses involving the preparation of edible items are not permitted in multi-family housing units due to food health and safety sanitation requirements or fire code limitations. For example, if you wish to start a catering business out of your unit and the bylaws permit such a business, the city’s health department may not allow it or may require you to obtain a permit, which will most likely involve regular inspection of your unit by the health inspector. If you fail to follow any bylaws or ordinances, you could lose your business and face fines.

Generally, home-based businesses will be permitted as long as they are not disruptive or unsanitary in nature, but some bylaws may ban any and all types of home-based businesses. Courts almost always side with condo association bylaws when a dispute arises so it is extremely important to review the bylaws. If the bylaws are unclear or the business you want to start is not specifically listed in the bylaws, you can always consult the condo association.