Treating Clients In Your Home? What You Need to Know.
Do you want the convenience and flexibility of seeing clients at your home? We share factors to consider and local regulations to look out for to run a compliant home-based healthcare practice.
Operating a home-based practice can be a flexible, cost-efficient way to serve clients. You don’t have to pay commercial rent, and your commute is shortened to the time it takes to walk from your bedroom to the home office. However, you may ask, “What are the legal risks of having clients in my home? Do I need a business license from my city? My county?”
Home-based businesses are distinct from work-from-home setups. These types of businesses involve hosting clients and running operations within your residence. Examples include conducting private therapy sessions, offering wellness classes, or teaching yoga.
Home-based business regulations typically focus on the number of clients served, the type of business operations conducted, and neighborhood impact. Inviting clients into your home also creates privacy and safety risks, so it’s crucial to create comprehensive policies to protect yourself and your clients.
Legal Constraints on Home-Based Businesses
Zoning regulations for parking, building additional structures for a home office, or even business hours may apply. Local towns or cities typically establish these regulations, and you can find them on your local government website or city hall.
Some localities, like the Village of Schaumburg in Illinois, have stringent guidelines. In Schaumburg, a home-based business cannot use more than 160 square feet of a home or garage. There is even a requirement to publish notice of home-based businesses in the newspaper and notify all neighbors within 150 feet of the property.
In McKinney, Texas, the city code restricts home-based adult group classes to three or fewer participants and limits the number of client cars that may park on the street at a given time. Thus, checking your local ordinances is essential to ensure your business is compliant and operating legally.
County, state, or federal laws may also apply, particularly if your home business is more complex and includes medical services. Additionally, your HOA or condo association may limit home-based businesses or prohibit them altogether.
Typically, communities aim to reduce the negative impact of home-based businesses on their neighbors. Thus, restrictions tend to focus on a few key characteristics.
Parking and Traffic
Clients must travel to and from your home for sessions. Those who drive will require parking on the street or in your driveway. Even clients who don’t drive will likely contribute to street traffic. Generally, your home-based practice should not interfere with local parking or create unreasonable traffic in your area.
Whether you intend to host group sessions with three or 20 clients makes a big difference in your ability to have a home-based practice. Local regulations typically aim to curb disturbances and thus may limit the number of clients you can serve at home. But in addition to city-specific regulations, you should also look at the impact of client visits to your neighborhood. Is the size of your class or program affecting your neighbors or the quality of life in your vicinity? For example, are neighboring homes disturbed by the noise or frequent guests entering and exiting your home?
Residential vs. Business Use
To best comply with zoning requirements and local ordinances, you should use your home primarily for residential purposes. Many cities set specific limits to the square footage or percentage of your home you can use for business activities. Those limits vary widely depending on state and local laws.
Type of Services
Do you intend to offer classes or wellness sessions, such as group fitness, or do you aim to provide medical services? If your practice includes medical care, state and federal regulations will likely apply and limit your scope of practice. For instance, you could not perform surgery in your kitchen or take X-rays in your basement. In many cases, local or state regulations prohibit medical procedures and services from being carried out outside of a clinical office.
You have likely considered if you need a federal or state business license to operate your home-based practice, but what about a license from your county or municipality? Every city is different, so contact your local government business department and ask about business licensure. While not all local governments require licensing for certain home-based businesses, others do. For example, Chicago requires a specific license for home-based businesses and charges a fee of $250 every two years. Make sure you are up-to-date and legally operating in your locality.
Personal and Professional Risks
Running a business from your home can be rewarding. However, inviting people into your residence can also create additional privacy, safety, and health risks for you and your clients. Before seeing clients at home, consider the sacrifice of privacy and the blurring of professional boundaries that it may entail.
Also, establish clear guidelines for clients you serve in your home. Perhaps you are a no-shoes household, want clients to wear a mask, or do not allow outside food or drink. Write down your policies or expectations and make them available before the session.
Look at your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Do these policies allow for home-based business operations? Do they cover incidents stemming from the business? For example, say a client causes damage to your property or a staff member falls and sustains an injury. Would your homeowners policy cover it? Does your business insurance policy cover home-based operations? You’ll need to drill down to the details of your policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage for general liability and your property. See our related article, “Do I Have the Right Insurance For My Healthcare Practice?”
Get Legal Support
Ignoring zoning or business regulations could subject you to daily fines, orders to cease operations, or other enforcement actions. You may be exposed to personal liability if your home-based business is not properly insured or not permitted in your city.
While hosting clients in your home can be an exciting step for your business and benefit you and your clients, it’s important to have policies in place to comply with local regulations.
If you practice in a state where we operate, reach out to us for a free consultation so we can discuss how you can structure your practice to stay compliant with local and federal laws related to home-based businesses.
This blog is made for educational purposes and is not intended to be specific legal advice to any particular person. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between our firm and the reader. It should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.