Member support question: Allowing tenants to operate home businesses
I have a tenant who wants to run a business out of their unit? Can they do that?
It depends on what kind of business, local by-laws, and whether you have rules in the lease about using the unit for business purposes. A tenant’s lease should say that the unit is intended for use as a residence and that any other purpose should be secondary. The lease should require tenants to follow all policies of the housing provider which can include a home-based business policy.
ONPHA recommends that any policy around homebased businesses require the tenant to meet three basic criteria: (1) the business must be permitted by local zoning by-laws and other applicable legislation; (2) that other tenants and staff members not be disturbed; and (3) that the operating of the business will not increase costs for the non-profit. Housing providers can also stipulate that the tenant must request permission from the non-profit to carry on a business from their home.
If a business is within the local by-laws, the effects of its operation will vary by housing provider. If your tenant lives in a detached unit and pays their own utilities it may be appropriate for them to be allowed to run a business that would not be suitable in an apartment building where utilities are paid by the housing provider.
Tenants should not be permitted a larger unit than they would usually qualify for under local occupancy rules in order to run their business. Tenants who receive a subsidy (or who have received a subsidy in the last 12 months) are required to report income from their business.
Any concerns about the operation of a business should be put in writing. Complaints from other tenants as well as observations and concerns of staff should be noted. Staff may inspect a unit by giving 24 hours or longer notice if they are concerned about equipment or machinery in the unit or about modifications being done to a unit. Health and safety concerns should be dealt with immediately. If a housing provider needs to contact an external resource about the operation of a business, they need to be aware of privacy rules regarding tenant information.