Monday, August 21, 2017

Suggestions for narrowing HOA rules for home-based businesses

I’ll continue the post from Thursday Aug. 17, assuming that many retirees are likely to have home-based second careers.

Condos, townhome, and homeowner associations ought to spell out “reasonable” exceptions to flat no business use of condos. 

1.  County/city ordinances
2   No sings, banners, decorations
3   No personal traffic to unit beyond what is normal for a residence; no being open to the public like a retail store or even church.
4  Generally professional services (like physicians) are not allowed, except in units set aside for this.  In Northern VA, it is common to have townhome “office parks” set aside for such use and sold as office condos.  In some communities there could be specific exceptions, like piano teaching.
5   No storage of large volumes of items for sale (Extra Space Storage or similar facility should be used for large volumes of items, only a small sample in the unit.)
6.  No unusual equipment not normally found in a residence -- just ordinary computer and broadband Internet work as a writer  / blogger could do   (income comes from book sales and from Internet ads on Google/Amazon) 
7.  UPS Store (not the condo building) is the normal mailing address for deliveries
8.   No explicit mention of home address (or of seller's identity, for that matter) in social media  (mention of a residence to whitelisted social media contacts for purely social purposes is OK)
9  There is no objection to normal telecommuting with a conventional employer (even where work from home is permitted) as long as it doesn’t require visitors or unusual equipment.
10  Permitted home-based businesses are normally sole-proprietorships.
11   However, for some HBB entities created as sole proprietorships, home address might be listed in state sales tax and business records as a clientized "physical address" available as public records (probably not easily found online but conceivably found by a determined party -- there are companies which provide this information outside normal search engines).   A HOA should give guidance before closing if this is acceptable. If not, a homeowner would presumably have to look for a genuine commercial space (which might be a small place in a distant small town to keep costs low) as the official “physical location” of the business entity.  Most states or local governments don’t accept UPS stores as physical business addresses, just mailing addresses.  These concerns could also affect homeowners who want to run fundraising campaigns for 501c(3)’s in their units;  the organizations they support may need separate physical addresses. 

HOA’s often forbid short term subleases, like Airbnb.  They should inform purchasers of their rules on this before closing. In some cities, Airbnb is heavily regulated, but some developers will build pricey condos in trendy neighborhoods with the expectation that Airbnb-positive policies will be selling points.  Some professionals who travel a lot (such as well established people in film) seem to like to buy such units.

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