Running a Business from Home? Are You Sure You're Allowed To?

With many more people running businesses from home in a post-COVID-19 world, the spotlight has inevitably fallen on commonplace restrictions on the use to which domestic premises can lawfully be put. In a case on point, a couple required a tribunal's authorisation to open a home-based childminding business.

The title deeds to the couple's home contained two restrictive covenants in common form, the older of them dating back to 1937. Together, they confined the property's use to that of a private dwelling house and specifically forbade its use for any trade or business. They therefore directly impeded the couple's proposal to operate an Ofsted-registered childminding business from their home.

Faced with that difficulty, they applied to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) under Section 84 of the Law of Property Act 1925 to modify the covenants so as to enable them to open their business. They had not sought planning permission to change the use of their home after receiving advice that no such permission was required for a childminding business looking after six or fewer children.

Following a site visit, the FTT expressed concern about traffic and parking issues that might arise from the proposed business use. The couple, however, succeeded in allaying those concerns. Granting the amendments sought, the FTT noted that the character of the area had substantially changed in the many years since the covenants were drafted. It was ultimately satisfied that a small childminding business represented a reasonable use of the property.