Tenant Tips

Home Is Where The Work Is

David Rutland
Written by David Rutland

Working from home is a great way to start up a business, but be wary of the law.

Working at a full time job sucks. Sure, money’s always good to have, but you’re working towards another person’s vision. You’re pouring your life into making someone else’s dream a success. Ultimately, your efforts count for little in the overall operation of a large company, and if your bosses could replace you with a machine, they would.

Wouldn’t it be great to run your own business? To succeed of fail by your own efforts? To be able to reap the rewards of your own labour and say to yourself, ‘I did that. I made that happen.’

There has to be something you’re good at. Some arena in which you can stand on your own two feet and proudly set up shop, knowing you can provide a better service than the corporate monoliths who currently dominate the market.

Setting up shop is the key, and unless you can actually afford business premises, you’ll be tempted to work from your own home.

Have you read your tenancy agreement? There’s a good chance it’s a boilerplate contract with a clause which demands you do not “permit to be carried on any business, trade or profession on or from the property.”

But don’t give up on your dreams just yet, the reason the clause is there is because business premises need planning permission, and have to pay business, rather than residential rates. If the local authority is upset, your landlord will be hit with penalties rather than you.

With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to what you can and can’t expect to get away with.

Selling to customers in person

No. If you have people regularly coming to your door, paying you money, and walking away with a product, you’re running a shop. You need business premises to do this, and it’s unlikely your landlord would be to pleased if you applied for a change of use.

Remote selling

Selling your old junk on eBay is a great way to make some extra cash, but if you’re actually running an ebay shop, you’ll have to think about how you’re running it and whether it constitutes a change of use. If you’ve given two of the bedrooms over to inventory storage, and have couriers picking up and dropping off parcels several times per day, your local authority will be after your landlord to pay business rates. Renting a nearby lock-up garage for £5 per week is a minimal extra cost and will keep you on the right side of the law. Even if you only have a small inventory, it’s probably best to consult your landlord. The chances are that they’ll be fine with it. If they’re not, move.

Mobile businesses

As a self-employed person, there’s a good chance that a good proportion of your work will take you away from your home. If you’re in the building trades for example, or you’re a mobile hairdresser. In most cases, this wouldn’t be counted as a “business, trade or profession on or from the property” except in the meanest, most technical sense. But does your website list your home address as your business address? Is it listed in the telephone directory? Naughty.

And again, where do you keep your inventory and equipment?  Are there three tonnes of bricks in your backyard, or half a dozen perming machines?

Freelancing

Programming and writing are two of the many, many occupations which can be done with just a laptop and a comfy chair. They don’t really require any special equipment or space set aside, so there is no chance that the powers-that-be would require you to register as a business premises. If your landlord decides to evict you because you’re running a one person freelancing business from your couch, you’ll probably be able to take it to court. And win.

Collaborative work

Even if you’re freelancing, you’ll sometimes need to work as part of a team. And if your team is based in the same area, it can be tempting to host everyone in your living room. That makes it an office. No.

Prostitution

As we’ve mentioned before, prostitution is legal in the UK, although running a brothel is not. Providing you’re the only person providing services on the premises, you’re on the right side of the law. As for whether it constitutes a business – you’re receiving clients on the premises, exchanging services for money, and are liable for income tax on your earnings (and VAT over a certain threshold). It is a business, but one which does not require change of use. But you’d still better check with your landlord.

 

Image credit: Joey Parsons

 

About the author

David Rutland

David Rutland

With a decades long career as a professional writer, David Rutland has worked as a journalist on local, national, and international newspapers, before embarking as a career as a freelancer.

He has ghostwritten several books, as well as producing travel guides, manuals, humour articles, and more internet blogs than you can shake a stick at.

David maintains offices in East London, but spends most of his time in a shed near Liverpool, where he writes, as well as developing apps for Android.

What people say about him:

Arrogant and abrasive - Alan Davis, Editor in Chief North Wales News Group

An absolute liability - Matt Simms, Editor, Vale advertiser

Are you sure this won't get us all arrested? - Mohana Prabhakar, Editor in Chief, Apex News Group

Go and have a shave. You're all prickly - Mrs Donna Rutland.