27 Jul 2022

Can you operate your home business without municipal consent?

by Amanda Gugulethu Zwane, Senior Associate, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Local Government & Administration |

The rise in fuel costs and the effects of Covid-19 has seen more and more people opting to work from home but can you run a business from your home? This article will unpack what you may need to consider prior to running a business from your home.

Each municipality is empowered by the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, No. 16 of 2013 to adopt a land use scheme. Land use schemes aim to administer land management usage by providing controls and rules on how land can be used and zoned. Amongst other things the purpose thereof is to ensure that there is sustainable urban growth development within municipalities and also to promote a uniform development plan.

Zoning regulations therefore categorise property into different zones i.e residential, commercial, civic or social administration, agricultural and so forth. Once your property is categorized, this means that you can only use it for the purposes in which it has been categorized under. If you intend to use your property for any another purpose outside of its zoning, you are obligated by law to obtain approval from your local authority depending on the type of business you wish to run.

Approval can be obtained by lodging a formal application with our local authority. Every local authority does however have different rules therefore you will need to check directly with them for guidance.

If you operate your business prior to obtaining approval, your local authority can levy rates in terms of the Municipal Property Rates Act, No. 6 of 2004 in accordance with the use of the property. In the case where there was a change in the usage, rates levied are payable on the date on which the change in category or usage occurred.

In addition to increasing the rates payable, a local authority can also issue you with a contravention notice in terms of which you may be invited to comment on the alleged contravention and or a prohibition notice. The prohibition notice is often issued by local authorities to instruct you to cease the alleged illegal activity, failing which they may impose a fine and/or imprisonment. Failing to adhere to these notices means a local authority may approach a court of law to interdict your operations.

We have seen complaints from neighbours against other neighbours being lodged with local authorities because one neighbour runs a business from their home which they may consider to be a nuisance. An example may be a creche where there isn’t sufficient parking at the residence thereby creating road traffic during drop offs or pick-ups or a mechanic whose broken down vehicles are parked on verges thereby creating an unaesthetically pleasing neighbourhood.

Therefore, if your business is in line with the zoning regulations, you may generally operate your business from your home without formal approval or a permit. If you are unsure you will need to check the relevant zoning regulations applicable to your area, visit your local municipality or obtain the assistance of an attorney for further directions.