There’s a new Florida law for “home-based” businesses.

Section 559.955, Florida Statutes

Effective July 1, 2021

As small business owners, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with the many government regulations we have to follow. But all businesses, no matter their size, have to pay attention to them. There are three levels of regulations: Federal, State, Local. Most business regulations come from the state and local levels.

By “local” I mean county and city governments. On the local level, counties and cities are most interested in regulating the location of a business and what business activity is conducted at that location. Think zoning ordinances and use restrictions like serving alcohol and having loud noises.

Many local governments restrict home-based businesses since being in a residential area is a part of the location of a business. Some local governments have more restrictions on home-based businesses than others, so it varies across the state. The Florida state legislature recognized some of these restrictions in their report:

  • In Volusia County, home-based businesses are required to occupy no more than 25 percent of the habitable floor area of the residence.
  • In Tampa, home-based businesses are prohibited from storing or selling merchandise, and may not conduct business in any accessory building.
  • In Naples, home-based businesses are not allowed to conduct retail, wholesale, or warehousing activities at the residence.
  • In Gainesville, a home-based business may not have more than one automobile used for the home-based business parked on the premises within view of surrounding properties. Such automobile may not have more than two signs, not exceeding two square feet in area, each mounted flat against or painted along the sides.
  • Jacksonville limits home occupations to small-scale, limited businesses that do not detract from the residential character of the neighborhood, and limits the floor area that may be used by the home occupation.
  • Orlando requires home occupations to obtain an occupational license, and the applicant must also submit detailed information relating to the physical space of the home. Orlando also prohibits certain specified occupations.
  • Miami limits home occupations to specified occupations, and occupations that do not generate high vehicular demand and limits the workspace of certain specified occupations.
  • Miami-Dade County prohibits on-site signage related to a home occupation.
  • Winter Park prohibits employees other than family members living in the house, and prohibits the use of accessory buildings.
  • Clearwater requires traffic generated by the home-based business to be no greater in volume than regular residential traffic, limits the use of commercial vehicles, and prohibits parking by marked vehicles on the property.

For the entire report, click here.

Then came the beginning of the “COVID economy” where many businesses shut the doors on their brick-and-mortar locations and moved all employees to work-from-home. Even after vaccines rolled out and the economy started opening back up, many businesses stayed virtual – or partially virtual – with employees continuing to work from home.

What did that mean for home-based business regulations? During the peak of the COVID quarantine period, most local governments turned a blind eye. After all, the government’s employees were working from home, too!

Now that many businesses continue to operate virtually – or have a hybrid model where some employees work from home – what is the status of home-based business regulations?

As of July 1, 2021, a new state law went into effect that allows home-based businesses and prevents local governments from restricting them. The state legislature recognized that there was now a need to “preempt” local regulations to protect the small businesses operating in this new climate. It’s a recognition that this type of work arrangement is here to stay.

Here’s the details on the new Section 559.955, Florida Statutes:

  • Local governments may not enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation or policy or take any action to license or otherwise regulate a home-based business.
  • A “home-based business” is one that operates from a residential property where an employee of the business lives in the residence. (In addition, you can have up to two (2) additional employees or independent contractors work out of the residence. The business can have remote employees that don’t work out of the residence.)
  • A home-based business may operate from a location even if the area is only zoned for residential use.
  • A home-based business is still subject to applicable business taxes (Local Business Tax Receipt) but only in the county/city where the home-based business is located.
  • Parking for the home-based business still needs to comply with local zoning requirements and can’t be any more than would normally be used for a similar residence where no business is conducted.
  • Business vehicles, trailers and equipment cannot be parked in a right-of-way, over a sidewalk or on any unimproved surfaces at the residence. (They don’t want a lot of business trucks and trailers blocking roads and sidewalks or parked in yards.)
  • A home-based business still has to comply with other regulations, such as signage rules and nuisance prohibitions.

Even though the new statute provides protection for a home-based business, you need to be aware that this law only applies to local governments. It does not apply to condo associations, cooperatives or homeowners associations, all of which can still have or place restrictions on home-based businesses.

Even with the protection of this new statute, you will still have to comply with some rules. Do you know what they are? If you or your employees work from home, it’s a good time to take a look at what you’re required to do.