If you run a business from home you need permission

With the economy as it has been for the past few years, many more people have started working for themselves and running their businesses from home.

However, very few people are aware that legal zoning requirements may not allow them to do this without permission, says Michael Olden of Olden & Associates Urban and Regional Planners.

“If you run your business from home – that is, from a property zoned for single residential purposes – and you employ people who work on the property, more often than not you need to obtain permission from your local authority,” he says.

“However, it depends where your property is located and which zoning scheme is applicable. At present, Cape Town has 27 different zoning schemes. Some of these are applicable in one area only, and some cover a number of different areas. The Divisional Council Zoning Scheme, for example, is applied in Constantia, Hout Bay, and Belhar whereas Fish Hoek, Simon’s Town and Pinelands have their own zoning schemes. When it comes to businesses or occupations operating from home, a zoning scheme offers a set of rules that must be adhered to in order to legally control such use on the property.”

Despite the 27 zoning schemes currently in use, Olden says there are some criteria common to most of these that enable property owners who want to work from home to determine whether or not additional zoning rights should be applied for. Consider the following, for example:

The location of your property determines which zoning scheme and development controls are applicable. Some zoning schemes require that consent be obtained from your local authority to set up a business at home, whereas some automatically allow you to do so.

The nature and scale of the business and its impact on and desirability for the abutting neighbours must be taken into account. The activities carried out on the site should not constitute a source of disturbance or nuisance to occupants of other dwelling units.

The number of employees is usually limited to no more than two.

The availability and number of on-site parking bays can also be an issue. Council usually prefers that sufficient on-site parking bays are provided and that vehicles can exit in forward gear.

Council may limit the business’s “footprint” or floor area, and usually requires that the primary use of the property remains residential. A common split is 70 percent residential and 30 percent business.

No goods for sale are allowed to be publicly displayed, except for an advertising sign, which will be limited in size usually to no more than 0.2 m2.

The impact on neighbours must be taken into account. Council may impose additional conditions to control and limit the use to prevent it having a negative impact on the abutting properties.

No dwellings may be used for noxious trade.

The above conditions are not an exhaustive list of the conditions applicable to home businesses, and are merely indicative of the type of conditions imposed by the City of Cape Town, says Olden.

The applicable zoning scheme will also specify the type of business that may be operated as of right within an area. For example, Section 22 of the City of Cape Town zoning scheme regulations (applicable to Wynberg, Rondebosch, Newlands, Claremont, Kenilworth, Woodstock and Camps Bay/Atlantic Seaboard areas), gives permission as of right for part of a dwelling or an outbuilding to be used by a resident for the following:

The conduct of a profession, an art or the trade of tailor, dressmaker, knitter, home-baker or confectioner, typist, computer operator, photographer, manicurist, chiropractor, chiropodist, masseur, hairdresser or barber, beautician, shoemaker, bookbinder, photocopier, signwriter, upholsterer, curtain maker, duplicator, engraver, etcher, leatherworker, milliner, silkscreener, cane worker and potter.

Any other business activities in these areas require consent from the City of Cape Town. This consent is likely to be granted only if the proposed use is desirable and does not have a negative impact on the abutting land owners.

Zoning schemes for other areas, such as Pinelands, Fish Hoek, Constantia, Hout Bay, Milnerton and Parow, have different rules and regulations. For instance, in the Pinelands area, a home business is allowed as of right but the number of employees is limited to five, including the operator of the business. The City of Cape Town, however, limits the number of employees to two and that the operator of the business must live on the property. However, the old divisional council scheme, applicable to Constantia, Hout Bay and Belhar, does not make provision to work from home so land owners have to apply for temporary departures from the zoning scheme, which allows the use only on a temporary basis (usually not longer than five years).

If a property owner can’t comply with the criteria applicable for a home industry (that is, the scale of business is too large), an application for a temporary departure could also be advised. This involves a statutory process whereby the application is advertised to the neighbours and undergoes a technical evaluation by the City of Cape Town. However, the use must be genuinely temporary and is not valid for a period of longer than five years once approval has been obtained. Alternatively, an application to rezone the property to an appropriate business zoning may be advised.

It should be noted that Cape Town’s existing 27 zoning schemes are being amalgamated to form one umbrella zoning scheme. The new scheme has not yet been approved and according to the officials of the City of Cape Town, is likely to be approved only towards the end of 2011 or in 2012. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the draft rules and regulations of the proposed new scheme are very similar to those described above. Once the new scheme has been promulgated, one set of rules will apply to all properties in the City of Cape Town, and any deviations or departures from these regulations will result in owners having to make statutory land use applications to the City of Cape Town.

Olden & Associates is experienced in making land use applications to the City of Cape Town and obtaining rights for land owners to operate their businesses from home. Visit www.oldenplanners.co.za.