Highland News Leader

People who work from home in Highland now face fewer obstacles

People who work from home in Highland will have fewer hoops to jump through after a change to the city’s ordinances.

The Highland City Council voted last week to eliminate a $10 annual fee and home occupation permit that had previously been required of anyone working out of their homes. In recent years, many more people have begun working remotely or freelancing out of their homes, as well as operating “side hustles” and other small businesses that wouldn’t require a brick-and-mortar location.

The council’s ordinance stated it had proven difficult to track and enforce compliance with the home occupation permit, and eliminated it.

“We have some antiquated code provisions,” said city attorney Michael McGinley. “It used to make sense and track (these occupations)… but more people are working from home, and commerce has evolved.”

McGinley said it just wasn’t feasible to keep tracking everyone who may be working from a home office. However, that doesn’t mean it’s open season for any business to operate from a residential district.

Home occupations still have to be “incidental and subordinate” to the purpose of the home as a residential dwelling, with no more than 25 percent of the house used for the business. Signage has to comply with the sign ordnance, and there are limitations to noise, equipment, parking and traffic.

If a home-based business has more than two employees, requires licensing from the state, uses heavy equipment or has three or more visitors at any given time, it may not qualify, among other requirements. Others, such as AirBnB overnight stays, landscape businesses and others may be able to get a special use permit.

Others can operate without a permit, such as housecleaners, sewing and alteration businesses, computer repair, tutoring and lessons, artisan crafting, internet sales, graphic design and freelancers, among others.

“There didn’t used to be a dichotomy between a home business and people working at home,” McGinley said. “Basically, if you’re running a business out of your home, we need to know about it.”

But for people just working from home, he said, it should alleviate an extra burden.

A recent Gallup poll found approximately 43 percent of the American workforce works remotely at least some of the time, leading to shifts in everything from workplace management to how people shop for homes.

Remote workers have greater freedom in where they choose to live when a commute isn’t an issue, and according to the New York Times, people buying or building a home have begun to pay as much attention to home offices as they used to pay to their kitchens.