Lots of people work a business on the side to make extra money and they run it out of their homes. For some, a home-based business is their main means of support. But what does your lease have to say about that? Many leases contain specific clauses that forbid commercial activity conducted from the rental unit. In the modern era however, this could be impossible and even undesirable to enforce in many cases. Take for instance, businesses where no physical goods or in-person services are exchanged -- like if you perform freelance work completely from your PC. If you were a landlord and you knew a tenant paid her rent simply by shuffling electrons back and forth over the Internet all day, would you really care?
Things get a bit trickier and stickier, however, if that business involves meeting with lots of clients and generates significant foot traffic on the premises. Landlords also aren't crazy about commercial deliveries shuttling to and from their rental property all week. Two big legal concerns are at play here -- local zoning laws and insurance liability. The last two things the landlord wants are Igor the Overeager Zoning Inspector snooping around and handing out fines or one of your clients tripping on a weed in the sidewalk and suing the pants off of the landlord and you.
Many cities have specific criteria and restrictions when it comes to out-of-the-home businesses. We're not advocating breaking the law here in any way, shape, or form. But even if what you're doing is harmless, we're with New York attorney Jeff McAdams, who advises, "The best plan for staying out of trouble is to keep a low profile, and not attract the landlord's attention in the first place" [source: McAdams].