A recent survey by the Community Associations Institute found that 67 percent of respondents have noticed an increase in home-based businesses operating within their communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same survey, 83 percent of respondents reported that their community restricts home-based businesses, but 73 percent indicated that their association was now being more lenient when it came to approving residents’ requests to operate businesses such as daycares, school learning pods, hair stylists and others from their homes.
Most Florida community associations have restrictions prohibiting commercial business activities from being conducted in residents’ units. Some include blanket bans on commercial activity altogether, while others make a distinction between permissible and impermissible activities.
It makes sense for associations to regulate and restrict businesses from operating within their communities, especially for commercial activities that entail increased traffic and noise, but the upsurge in working from home in the new post-pandemic normal calls for HOAs and condominium associations to take a prudent approach that is guided by reason. Today’s technology allows for a great deal of work to be done from home with no disruptions whatsoever to the community at large. Rather than attempting to ban all commercial activities in a community, the better option is to specifically delineate in the governing documents the types of activities that are not allowed.
Some of the activities that communities may wish to ban are those that entail significant vehicular traffic, including from clients as well as vendors and delivery vehicles. The stockpiling of chemicals or other flammable/hazardous materials in residences and garages is also a concern, as is the number of commercial vehicles being parked in driveways and parking areas in front of homes.
During these uncertain times, it is not advisable to litigate matters over individuals’ ability to work from home while adapting to the restrictions imposed by the global pandemic. Rather than attempting to impose severe restrictions on commercial activities, some of which are impossible to enforce given that many people are able to work very effectively and discretely from their home offices, boards of directors and property managers should consult with highly qualified and experienced community association attorneys to adopt restrictions on home-based work and businesses that are reasonable and uniformly applied.