Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hard @ Work

Do you know what your covenants say about home-based businesses?  Although covenants vary, most address the topic of commercial activity under the “Use Restrictions” section of the Declaration.

In this economy, homeowners have been very creative about how they earn a living.  Some are able to telecommute and others provide services that require them to store equipment or inventory.  Let’s not forget about the industrious stay-at-home mom who brings in a little bit of extra income on the side selling kitchen tools or adorable kids’ clothes.

This begs the question:  How do you know such business activity is taking place and does it comply with the covenants?  Often the covenants allow for a business so long as it is not visibly apparent to the community or there is not excessive traffic by clients or suppliers to the home. In other instances, the covenants allow Board of Director discretion when determining what is and isn’t acceptable.

When a home business grows into something more than what a house can contain, it’s time to address the problem with the owner.  What began as a favor for a sister-in-law turns into a full blown day care?  Is there excessive parking on the street from those piano students’ parents? Are employees coming to the home on a daily basis?  In all of these cases, other violations can stem from the original use-restriction of business activity.

If a homeowner becomes resistant to following the covenants in the name of earning a living, the board should first address the problem with a violation notice.  If that fails, the next step is to use any fining provisions in the covenants.  Another option is to seek help from local authorities, such as county code enforcement, the environmental health department or the business license office in the local city or county.  In some instances such as child care, even state agencies, such as Bright from the Start, can be involved.  The Board may also opt to sue for injunctive relief.

If a Board fails to act and the home-based business owner is causing a nuisance to his or her neighbors, these neighbors have the option of enforcing the covenants by taking the owner to court themselves. As long as there are deed restrictions on the property that haven’t expired, these will be enforced the judicial system.

Home-based business regulations drafted twenty years ago need to be applied in a fair and consistent manner that fits with today’s reality.  Balancing neighbors’ expectations with a homeowner’s livelihood requires a solution that is fair and respectful for everyone.

No comments:

Post a Comment