Rules and Regulations for Operating a Home Based Business in the City of Chicago
Recognizing the national employment trend in recent years that has required millions of people to work from their homes, Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago City Council have created the Home Occupation Ordinance, which will allow certain business activities to take place in a person’s home.
The Ordinance was developed by a Task Force appointed by Mayor Daley, consisting of city government officials, aldermen and members of the work-at-home force. It was carefully crafted to balance the competing demands of person’s wishing to operate a business from their place of residence and the need to maintain the residential character of the surrounding communities. Specifically, the ordinance places certain restrictions on the types of businesses that may be operated from the home and the number of persons that may visit the business on any given day, and takes other steps necessary to ensure that residential neighborhoods do not become disorderly or overly congested with commercial traffic.
The Ordinance will be regulated by the departments of Zoning and Revenue, with inspectors investigating complaints, assessing fines and penalties, ultimately closing down unlawful operations.
The Home Occupation Ordinance only applies to individuals who are self employed or operate their own business. A Home Occupation License is not required from individuals who work from their homes on either a part-time or full-time basis for an employer that has a separate place of business.
Questions regarding what types of businesses may be licensed and other aspects of the Home Occupations Ordinance can be answered by the Department of Zoning at: 312-744-9042. For further information on obtaining a license, contact the Department of Revenue at: 312-744-3947, or visit the Department of Revenue at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., Room 107.
Further information and application materials are also available on the City of Chicago’s home page on the World Wide Web at: www.ci.chi.il.us
Prohibited Home Occupations
Any repair of motorized vehicles, including the painting or repair of automobiles, trucks, trailers, boats or lawn equipment
- Animal hospitals, kennels, stables, or bird keeping facilities
- Astrology, card reading, palm reading, or fortune telling in any form
- Barber shops or beauty parlors
- Dancing schools
- Restaurants, or any catering/food preparation businesses
- Massage Therapy
- Funeral chapels or homes, crematoria, mausoleums
- Medical or Dental Clinics, provided that nothing in this chapter shall prohibit the performance of emergency medical services in a residential dwelling
- Any facility where products are manufactured, produced or assembled when the home occupation licensee is not in the retail sale for such products
- Public places of amusement, such as theaters or video arcades
- The sale of firearms or ammunition
- Warehousing, welding or machine shops
- Construction business or landscaping businesses that include the storage of goods and materials to be utilized in the operation of the business or use (No parking of business vehicles on the premise)
Home Occupation Regulations
01. A “Home Occupation” must be an accessory use of a home for a business or commercial enterprise. The use must be incidental and secondary to the principal residential use of the dwelling unit and must not change the residential character of the dwelling unit or adversely affect the character of the surrounding neighborhood.
02. A dwelling unit may be used for one or more home occupations. The business is to operated by the person or persons living in the home and may allow only one non-resident employee.
03. All individuals must obtain a Home Occupations License from the Department of Revenue for a fee of $125.
04. No Home Occupation may be operated from an accessory structure or garage.
05. The Home Occupation may not display or create any external evidence of the operation of the Home Occupation (no sign).
06. There may not be any internal or external structural alterations or construction, either permanent or temporary, to the home.
07. Separate entrances from the outside of the home may not be added.
08. Home Occupations may only be conducted with in the home.
09. Storage related to the home occupation will remain within the home.
10. The direct sale of any product on display shelves or racks is not permitted.
11. The area in the home from which the home occupation will be operated must not exceed ten percent of the floor area of any single family home, or fifteen percent of the floor area of any unit in a multiple dwelling building.
12. No more than two patrons or clients may be present in the home at one time when the home is used for business purposes.
13. No more than ten clients or patrons may be present in the home during a 24-hour time period.
14. Bulk deliveries related to the home occupations are limited to one per day, in addition to U.S. Mail service, Federal Express, U.P.S. and messenger services. Tractor trailer deliveries are not permitted. Bulk deliveries can only be made between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
15. A Home Occupation must not emit noise, smoke, dust or any other particulate or odorous matter; heat, humidity, glare, or any other effect that unreasonably interferes with anyone’s enjoyment of his or her residence.
16. Nothing in this ordinance shall prevent a Condominium Association’s Board of Directors, a Cooperative Association’s Board of Directors, or a landlord from adopting a rule prohibiting home occupations on the premises.
17. The Departments of Zoning and Revenue will enforce this ordinance. Penalties for violating any conditions of the ordinance will result in fines ranging from $200 to $500 per offense.
Home Occupation Hotlines:
For general inquiries regarding home occupations visit or call
Department of Zoning
121 N. LaSalle Street, Room 802
312-744-9042 TTY: 312-744-2950
For inquiries regarding licensing home occupations visit or call
Department of Revenue
121 N. LaSalle Street, Room 107
312-744-3947 TTY: 312-744-9275
(Note: The information in this article is intended to be general in nature. Plan to discuss your particular circumstances with an attorney for how this might apply to you.)
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