Home Business Zoning Laws NYC

by | Last updated Jul 9, 2023 | Apartment Renovations, NYC Zoning, Renovations

Is it legal to run a business from an apartment in NYC?

The NYC Zoning Resolution allows certain types of businesses to operate from a residence with limitations. These are called Home Occupations. The zoning code restricts the kinds of use and size. In most cases, the home business must be less than 500 square feet or 25% of the home, whichever is less. There are additional use and operational requirements based on the type of occupation.

The NYC Zoning Resolution refers to having a Home Office or Home Business operated from a house or apartment as a “Home Occupation.” The NYC Zoning Resolution details requirements and restrictions.

I am Jorge Fontan, a New York architect and owner of Fontan Architecture in NYC. At our firm, we work on various project types, including many residential projects. There has been a huge trend for people to work from home, with many of our clients adding a home office to their residences. New York City has many regulations concerning operating a business from your home. In this post, we will outline some basic concepts within the Home Occupation Zoning Laws.


Home Occupation in NYC

According to the NYC Zoning Resolution, the following criteria must be met to run a home-based business.

  • The home must be primarily used as a home. The Business aspect “is clearly incidental to or secondary to the residential use.”
  • The business must be owned and operated by the person living in the residence.
  • Only one person not residing in the home may be employed to work there.
  • The home office or area of operating the home business occupies at most 25% of the residence up to a maximum of 500 square feet.


NYC Home Office Size Requirements

You cannot have a home office over 500 square feet in NYC and over 25% of the home’s total floor area. You must be under both requirements. Some exceptions exist for certain lofts and Joint Live-Work Quarters for Artists, JLWQA.


Home Businesses allowed in NYC.

The Zoning Code lists a few examples of allowed home businesses, but this list is not meant to limit the possibility of other allowed business types.

  • Fine Arts Studios
  • Professional Offices
  • Teaching (no more than four students at a time)
  • Musical Instrument Instruction (no more than one student at a time)


Prohibited Businesses for Home Occupation

The New York City Zoning Code prohibits certain types of home businesses. The following businesses cannot operate from a home occupation or home office in New York.

  • advertising or public relations agencies
  • barbershops
  • beauty parlors
  • stables or kennels
  • depilatory, electrolysis, or similar offices
  • interior decorators’ offices or workshops
  • ophthalmic dispensing
  • pharmacy
  • real estate or insurance offices
  • stockbrokers’ offices
  • veterinary medicine.


General Restrictions for Home-Based Businesses in NYC

A few operational issues are not allowed for a home-based business in NYC. Here is a list of things you cannot do in your home office:

  • You cannot sell anything produced outside of the premises.
  • No exterior signs visible from the outside
  • No display of goods visible from the outside
  • You cannot have products that are stored outside of the building or accessory space to the building.
  • In R1 Zoning or R2 Zoning Districts, you cannot display a nameplate or sign except in connection with a “profession.”
  • You cannot make exterior renovations not normal for residential purposes or change the character of a residential area for your home business.
  • You cannot produce: ” offensive noise, vibration, smoke, dust or other particulate matter, odorous matter, heat, humidity, glare, or other objectionable effects.”


Adding a Home Office in an NYC Apartment

The photo below is of a home office we designed in an apartment in NYC. This office is for an Attorney who works from home and wanted to add a home office while we renovated the apartment. This home office design has black metal and glass doors for transparency and openness. If you would like to read more on the subject, we have another post on Adding a Home Office to an Apartment in NYC.

Black Metal and Glass Home Office Doors

Black Metal and Glass Home Office Doors


Renovating for a Home Office in NYC

If you are going to renovate to add a home office in NYC, you will need to file for permits. If you are in a Condo or Co-Op, you will first need approvals from your management company and board.


Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Home Occupation Laws in NYC?

I hope this was helpful. If you want to speak with an architect about a potential project, contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


Contact Fontan Architecture

Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.