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Is it legal to run my business from home?

Legalities Of Business

Kevin Duncan (Author) gives expert video advice on: What is Health and Safety?; What is planning permission, and do I need to get it? and more...

Whether it's legal to run a business from home depends on the nature of the business that you're running. If you live in a nice, quiet residential street and you suddenly decide you're going to run a garage from there, or a dentist shop or something similar then the answer is that probably it is not legal, unless you have gone through the proper planning legalities. The answer to that might still be no, but if you're simply selling your services from home and going out to do them, or using your computer or doing whatever you do then it is all completely legal.

What is Health and Safety?

Health and safety is a whole set of laws and procedures that affects businesses. The scale of them will depend on the scale of the business. Simply put, if somebody trips over a wire at a particular place of work, then in theory the employers are duty-bound to be liable for that and to pay compensation and whatever. They're also subject to inspections that make sure that the whole place is safe to work in. Originally these ideas were designed for complicated places of work like factories, which are clearly dangerous, but they now apply to more normal working environments like offices.

What is 'Environmental Damage', and am I responsible for it?

Environmental damage, of course, can take all sorts of forms, depending on the nature of your business. The short answer is, yes, you're completely responsible for it. It is just a question of whether you're going to get in any particular legal trouble for it. For example, if you're a painter and decorator, and you throw your paint down the drain, in the same street every night, then clearly, that is out of order, and you shouldn't be doing it, and you may well get caught and fined for it at some point. It could also apply to much simpler things, such as whether you bother to turn the lights off in your office every evening, and turn the computers off - you should be doing that as well, because that's your contribution.

What is planning permission, and do I need to get it?

Planning permission usually refers to some form of structural work that is going to be done on a building or a place somewhere. There are other types of planning permission, and that will be what I plan to do with a certain space even though there may be nothing structural on the outside. You do need to get planning permission if you're going to make massive structural changes to anything or, indeed, if you suddenly take a particular building and decide that it is going to be your place of work when it hasn't been one before. You need to make sure that you have the necessary permission to run a business from there.

Do I need a licence to trade?

Not everybody needs a licence.For example, if you want to sell flowers, you don't need a licence. However, if you want to run a flower shop in a business spot owned by somebody else, then you need a licence. In some cases it is mandatory, but in most cases you don't need a licence to trade.

What insurance policies should I take out?

Your attitude to insurance is a bit like what happens in your personal life: some people are well-insured and others aren't. In business, if you've got a place of work, you need some basic insurance on the building, you will probably want insurance on the contents, and you may want some insurance against debt protection. Bad debt, in other words, will result if your customers don't pay their invoices - it has crippled more than a few businesses. The other thing worth thinking about is key man insurance, in other words, you. This is a way in which you can insure the fortunes of your business against you personally becoming incapable of working.

What is Data Protection?

Data Protection is a law, which means that you have to make sure that the data that you hold about your customs cannot be abused in any way. The simplest expression of that is where you take their information, and that information then gets passed onto somebody else who then uses it for a completely different purpose. That is now illegal, and so it mustn't be allowed to happen. If you run a business which holds customer records, and a lot of them do, then you've got to make sure that they're very securely held and cannot be got a hold of by anybody else.

Should I get a Lawyer?

Most people should get a lawyer in the broader sense. Whether that means you are going to use them for personal needs or business needs is a discussion point. In small businesses, that line is a lot more blurry than one might imagine. For example, if you're a sole trader is it you personally that is wanting to precede somebody legally or check your rights, or is it you, the cooperation. The same applies when you have small partnerships. In the early days, the answer is that you probably don't need one, but there will certainly be an occasion somewhere where you'll be wanting to know your rights and something needs looking at legally, and then you'll need a lawyer.

To change the legal structure of your business, you need to have a careful thought about what the legal structure is at the moment, and what you would like it to be. It is going to depend whether you're a sum trader, a corporation, or a partnership of some kind. Presumably, if you want to change that structure, you'll have thought, perhaps, Im working on my own right now, but I'd like to work with somebody else, or I'm working with somebody else and I want to work on my own, or I want to change now into being affiliated with a company. You don't always need a lawyer or anything complicated to get that done. You may just need a quick word with your accountant, and to get in touch with the various bodies, and that is what you do. You find out what you want it to become, make sure that is what you want, and then do the paperwork.