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Condominium Management | When an Out of Home Business Becomes a Problem

by Staff Writer on Dec 5, 2017 8:00:00 AM

There are plenty of restrictions within your condominium associations. You want to control many of the aspects of community living in order to make life safer and more comfortable for all the residents. For many condominium associations, that includes restrictions on the businesses that can be run out of the individual residences. With an increasing number of individuals choosing to work from home, it's important to decide how your association will handle residents who choose to work from home, the types of businesses that are permissible, and what to do when an out of home business becomes a problem. 

Common Restrictions

Typically, your condominium association rules are based on creating the greatest possible convenience for all members of the association. Ideally, rules regarding governing home-based businesses should be created as early as possible, rather than trying to enforce rules that were enacted retroactively. Some common rules include:

  • Business owners must not make excessive use of common areas--that is, use that is in excess of what is used by other residents.
  • Business owners must conduct their business in such a way that it is not possible to determine that the unit is being used as a place of business from the outside. This limits both the appearance of the business and the sounds that can come out of the unit when it's in use in this manner. 
  • Patrons of the business must not come and go from condo property, increasing traffic and raising security risks for all residents.
  • The business must not increase the premiums paid by the association.

By deciding on the rules that work best for your association early in the process, you improve the odds that all of your residents will follow them. Keep in mind that the goal is not to prohibit people from making a living from home; rather, the goal is to ensure that those activities do not negatively impact other residents of the condominium. 

Evaluating the Nuances

Some home-based businesses are, as a general rule, less disruptive to the community than others. For example, a freelance writer working out of a home-based office is conducting business, but their efforts are unlikely to cause an increase in traffic throughout the community. A home-based daycare, on the other hand, might substantially increase the amount of noise, decreasing the ability of neighboring units to enjoy their homes in peace. When you set up the rules that govern the existence of home-based businesses in your condominium association, make sure you're considering the nuances and how they have the potential to affect residents. Ask yourself a few key questions. 

  • Do you want to draw a hard line--absolutely no home-based businesses allowed at all--or simply protect the interests of the community?
  • Do you give more scrutiny to items that negatively impact the community as a whole and ignore businesses that aren't causing any problems?
  • What kinds of issues could be caused by home-based businesses within your community, and how do you plan to handle them? 

By thinking through the nuances ahead of time, you can be sure that your governing documents cover the relevant issues. This will ensure that when a problem does arise, you can deal with it quickly, efficiently, and legally. 

When It's Already a Problem

In some cases, you might not have prepared adequately for the potential problems a home-based business could bring to your community. Perhaps your governing documents are too lenient about the ways in which a home-based business must conduct itself, or maybe you don't have that information in your governing documents at all! In other cases, you might have clear documentation, but the rules aren't being followed by all of the residents. When a resident's home-based business becomes a problem, there are several steps to take. 

  • Revisit your association's governing documents. See what rights they give you with regards to dealing with home-based businesses, from the types of rules you're able to enforce to how you're supposed to enforce them. 
  • Check the validity of the complaints. In some cases, residents' concerns may be entirely valid. In others, however, residents may be attempting to use the governing documents of the community as ammunition in an ongoing battle with their neighbors. Where there are disputes, make sure that the issues really are of concern.
  • Negotiate. In many cases, homeowners will be willing to make concessions in order to maintain both their residence and their business. 

Ultimately, taking a resident to court over a dispute is a possibility. This is, however, the worst-case scenario for both association and resident--and in the end, most of the time, no one wins. Negotiation is typically the best strategy for finding a happy medium for all parties involved. As a condominium association, your goal is to ensure that no one is negatively impacted by one resident's decision to work from home--and with the right policies and some effort, you can maintain that goal.

Contact a provider of condominium management services today to help your association.

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