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Here’s what DC zoning laws allow for your home office

Thinking about remaking your at-home work setup? Here's what you're legally allowed to do in DC, according to the district's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Parenting while working remotely. (Photo by William Fortunato from Pexels)
In a post-pandemic world, office space means a lot of things it did not before. From couches to coffee shops to actual work HQ in the home, it’s presented new options for business owners and founders.

In this new wave of digital nomadism and remote work lifestyles, some are turning to coworking spaces or completely remote models in lieu of heading back to the office. But for others, there’s also the option of setting up shop at home and having employees come to you.

In DC, that means getting a permit for conducting your business from the home. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) requires residents to apply for a Home Occupation Permit for any full or part-time business, professional or economic activity occurring at a residence.

“This permit is required for operating a business from your home,” a DCRA spokesperson told Technical.ly. “You must live in the District of Columbia and the home must be your primary residence.”

Here’s the kicker for those thinking of setting up HQ in that spare den: No more than 25% of a residence’s total floor space can be used for an office setup. As a whole, it cannot be larger than 250 square feet (quick, someone calculate what an IKEA island, compared to a 400 square-foot apartment, comes out to for me).

There are also limits on how many employees can work out of said home office. Aside from doctor/dentist offices and child development homes, employers are only allowed to host two non-resident employees. Alongside this, home office owners are allowed up to eight visits from customers, delivery people and visitors per day. In a one-hour period, there can be no more than eight clients on the premises at once.

Here are some other key requirements:

  • On top of the size limit, office owners are not allowed to make structural changes to an office space that would complicate its possible transition back into residential space
  • There can be no more than two vehicles used by the business, and there’s no parking or storage of commercial vehicles allowed
  • Owners are limited to a single unlit exterior sign that isn’t to exceed 144 square inches

The rulings all date back to 1958 (otherwise known as “before the Before Times), when a version of DC’s zoning regulations was enacted. According to the DCRA spokesperson, the rules intended to allow limited commercial activity so home businesses wouldn’t “impact the residential character of the neighborhood.” While the office confirmed that the rules haven’t changed since then, the DCRA has moved to allow digital applications instead of paper ones.

To clarify, these rules are limited to people looking to run a business out of their homes. If your business address is elsewhere and you’re just a person and a couple of monitors, you should be good to go. But for those looking to make a change (or even rent/buy a house just for your business), the rules are worth keeping in mind.

What does your home office look like? Send us some pics at DC@technical.ly

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