Home Business Council Compliance

When starting a small business, establishing operations in your own home is a tempting prospect, especially in financial terms. However, there are certain aspects of your business’ operations that need to be carefully considered to ensure you don’t get into trouble with your local council. This article explores some of the factors than need to be considered when deciding whether to base your business at home, as well as what to expect in dealing with Councils.

The first step to take is to consult with your local council to see what level of assessment is required before a business can be established at your home. For instance, in Brisbane, you can submit details of your premises and intended use, and the Council will (for a fee) inform you whether you require approval for that use, and what level of assessment is required. In many cases, you will be able to self-assess the impact of your business according to the Council’s criteria.

The most important aspect considered by Council in assessing planning applications for a home business is what impact the business’s activities will have on your neighbours and nearby residents. Activities that generate significant amounts of noise or pollution will generally be the subject of neighbour complaints fairly quickly. Complaints of this nature are not easily rectified, meaning approval will be difficult to obtain. However, other common complaints, such as increased traffic and parking problems, can be mitigated. In that instance, for example, approval may still be granted if you could prove that your business would not generate significant extra traffic, and you provided parking spaces on your premises so as to minimise issues with street parking. Ultimately, if your business creates no noise, smells, vibration or pollution, and does not involve any customers or suppliers visiting your premises, there will be no basis on which approval would be refused.

Theoretically, your home business requires approval before it can commence operations. However, the Council’s approval regime is not punitive. An investigation of a non-approved business won’t usually be initiated unless a neighbour makes a complaint. If an investigation is initiated, it will usually involve the Council dispatching an officer to assess your business. If the assessment finds that your business does not create any adverse impacts for your community, or than any impacts are sufficiently mitigated, approval will generally be granted, and a formal application may not have to be submitted. However, if the assessment details significant adverse impacts, the Council will require submission of a formal application for approval. If the application is unsuccessful, and the Council is not satisfied that the adverse impacts can be sufficiently mitigated, they have the power to force you to discontinue your business operations. Other penalties may also apply.

Finally, additional restrictions on your ability to operate a home business may be contained in a Local Area Plan. General guidelines for development are contained in local councils’ overall plan (e.g. Brisbane City Plan). However, more localised neighbourhood plans may impose additional requirements on your suburb, owing to other factors such as infrastructure and heritage considerations. These documents should be consulted before any planning application in submitted to your Council.

So, although there are obvious benefits to establishing your business at home, it is important to consider planning restrictions and community impacts at the outset, before you begin trading. It is also something to consider prior to purchasing property. It will be significantly easier to deal with and plan around Council requirements when your business is in its infancy rather when it is fully established and your ability to relocate is severely limited.

Article by: David Kehoe, Business Development and Compliance Counsultant