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  • Writer's pictureRandall Fisher

Starting an In-Home Business (or, My Crusade on the Homeowners Association)

Last Friday, we discussed how technological advance has powered a revolution in small business. A smartphone and a solid business name are all you really need to get started, notwithstanding how irritating it can be to type on the former and decide upon the latter. Once you have those in hand, you may not ever need to leave your house again.

Given what such a lifestyle can do for your tan, your golf swing, and your social prospects, it’s not a choice I would recommend but you’re free to do as you please. I suppose you could make it work.

If it works for a Jedi master, why not you? Disclaimer: It is not recommended that you apply this logic to other areas of your life.

Even if you don’t go full-on hermit there is, in all seriousness, something worth considering in this absurd analogy. If you can find a way to efficiently operate your business out of your home, then you may have an immediate edge over any established competition that must shrink profits to cover overhead and commit otherwise productive hours to a daily commute. Here’s what you need to know.

For starters, only certain types of businesses are eligible to run from your home. Typically, these are confined to professional service businesses like a doctor’s or lawyer’s office, though in some locales there is the possibility of headquartering a business in a residence only to have a larger office or storage space elsewhere. Businesses like catering and charter schools would also be a possibility. We have also seen the advent of home-based sales forces of larger businesses that gather their troops at a central location like a giant conference room. They typically receive an additional stipend from the big corporation in exchange for the ability to reduce the corporate footprint.

Ineligible would be most any type of business commanding either a significant amount of interior square footage for storage or service or exterior square footage for parking. A retail store or restaurant would be out of the question. Note that “significant” can vary widely depending on local law. Here in Anne Arundel County, no more than 25% of your residence can be used for business purposes.

Which reminds me of another important point: You will need to deal with the local county and/or municipal governments for zoning permissions. Furthermore, you will have to put up with the homeowners association, unless you are one of the miraculous few in suburbia who actually has the right to replace a loose shingle without written permission or repaint the little flag on your mailbox as you see fit (Oh, how I envy you).

Depending on just how acutely asinine your local or residential governing body is, you may consider it in your best interest to simply let someone else do it for you. You’ll need someone capable of productively annoying them until they get something done just as effectively as they annoy you. You’ll need to fight fire with fire, or as the case may be, unbearably fastidious with unbearably fastidious. You’ll need someone with glacial patience.

You’ll need a lawyer.

I’ve done this for years, so I’m particularly attuned to the demands of patently insane or just mildly hostile homeowners associations, and I’m willing to assume the brain-numbing rigor of navigating county government directories on your behalf.

Technology has made it so much easier to get your business from an idea scrawled on a napkin to a fully functioning startup; if only the same could be said about the people in between. Give me a call and I’ll give you a hand.

If you enjoyed this post, check out how Intellectual Property Rights Can Help Protect Your Business.

Good luck and good hunting.


If you want to talk about establishing your own in-home business or just vent to another oppressed comrade about the injustice of your homeowners association, you can find out how to reach me at my website:  You can also reach us at, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at  If you have questions about kittens, knitting, or feminism, you can consult the experts at the Arts and Cats Movement.

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