Just because you are a renter does not necessarily mean you are prohibited from having a home office or a home business. The Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA) only prohibits a tenant from running an unlawful business.

However, there are some other legal issues you cannot afford to ignore. First, keep in mind that your unit must remain primarily residential. Here are some other issues to consider:

LEASE OR HOME OWNER’S ASSOCIATION RULES

Before you open your home office or business make sure the lease does not prohibit a business. If you are renting a condo, townhouse, or other type of house in a homeowner’s association (HOA) review the HOA bylaws or ask the landlord if businesses are prohibited.

Read the lease very carefully. Sometimes there are clauses in the lease you would not expect to be a problem but can later form the basis for an eviction.

BUSINESS LICENSE

Most businesses require both a Washington State and local license. Even if you have an out of home office you may be required to get a second license for your home office if it is in another city.

ZONING LAWS

It is also a good idea to review how the neighborhood is zoned. If you are just one person working from a laptop in your kitchen this may not be applicable. But, if you are inviting customers or clients to your home, or having employees work from your home, you should make sure the building is zoned for commercial or mixed use.

INSURANCE COVERAGE

If you are going to store expensive office equipment at home, you may want to increase your renter’s insurance coverage. Likewise, if you plan to have customers come to your home you may want to consider premise liability insurance.

EXCESSIVE WEAR AND TEAR

While a tenant is not liable for normal wear and tear, a home business may cause excessive wear and tear. Be aware of this when it is time to move out. The landlord may charge you for the excess wear and tear caused by your business traffic.

NUISANCE

If your business is loud or has unusual hours, the neighbors may complain. There are specific legal requirements before it can rise to the level of a nuisance. But, be aware of excessive noise or foot traffic because a landlord may have a duty to all the other tenants to put a stop to it.

 

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