Setting up your business at home – beware of planning constraints

Setting up your business at home – beware of planning constraints

1819.brussels

When you launch a new business project, it is tempting to do so at home in the first instance, in order to limit costs. Unfortunately, planning regulations only allow a limited number of professional activities…and only under certain conditions.

When you launch a new business project, it is tempting to do so at home in the first instance, in order to limit costs. Unfortunately, planning regulations only allow a limited number of professional activities…and only under certain conditions.

Well-protected Brussels housing

The regional land use plan (PRAS), the main planning regulation for the Brussels region, provides special protection to housing. In order to preserve existing housing, one of the provisions of the PRAS (0.12) sets out significant limitations of transforming housing, or a part of housing, to replace it with another function (shop, office, etc.).

If this has not been set out during construction of the property or before the entry into force of the PRAS (2001) and you want to use part or all of your property as a work space, the only professions allowed by the PRAS are the following:

a) Self-employed professions and intellectual service companies

Self-employed professions

There is no official definition of a self-employed profession. However, it is generally accepted that a self-employed worker exercising a self-employed or intellectual profession essentially provides intellectual products or services which cannot be defined as an act of commerce or an artisanal activity.

Here are a few characteristics of a self-employed professional:

  • They always work in the interests of the customer and the company.
  • They are often governed by a code of ethics and specific legislation regarding the professional status.
  • A self-employed professional assumes personal responsibility.

Generally speaking, a self-employed professional does not exercise a commercial activity.

As an example, we can mention the following professions: lawyer, notary, architect, doctor, pharmacist, etc.

Intellectual services companies

This notion concerns professional "service" activities such as estate agent, surveyor, accountant, company auditor, psychologist, tax advisor, etc.

UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS?

If your professional activity falls into one of the two categories below, you must comply with a few conditions to be able to work in your home or in a residential building. There are two possible cases:

  1. To set up your business, you want to modifypart of a property (single-family dwelling or apartment). To do this, the following (cumulative) conditions must be respected:
  • must not exceed 45% of the building's surface area (single-family dwelling or apartment)
  • constitute an accessory function to the main residence of the person exercising the activity or of one of the company's administrators/shareholders. The person exercising the profession must also reside at the same address.

2. If you want to use an entire housing unit for your activity, you must respect the following conditions:

  • be located in an apartment building (not a single-family dwelling);
  • must not exceed 15% of the building's total surface area;
  • preferably be located on the ground or first floor.

IS A PLANNING PERMIT REQUIRED?

Generally speaking, a planning permit is required to transform a property or a part thereof into a work space. However, if your business only occupies a limited surface area in your property, there are exceptions.

You do not need to apply for a planning permit if you cumulatively meet the following two conditions:

  • The professional activity is an accessory to the main residence of the person, administrator or shareholder exercising this activity.
  • The surface area used for the professional activity is less than 75 m².

Example: you are a psychologist and want to conduct consultations at home. This is possible and without a permit if the surface area of your practice is below 75 m².

b) Commercial or production activities

The options are more limited for commercial or production activities. A planning permit is always required to request the transformation of a home or a part thereof to set up a shop or a production company. In addition, the planning permit application can only be accepted when the following conditions are met:

  • For a shop:
  • Either located on the border of the commercial core (zones delimited by the PRAS) and located on the ground floor or the first floor.
  • Or be located outside the border of a commercial core, only if the ground floor is already allocated for use by a business.
  • Constitute an extension of an existing production activity.

Example: you want to open a beauty salon and set up in a part of your apartment located on the 2nd floor of a building. This is a commercial activity. Unfortunately, it won't be possible to request a planning permit to exercise your activity at home, given that the two conditions above are not met. In this case, we recommend you find a ground floor already allocated to trade to set up your business.

Remember

Exercising your profession as a self-employed worker also has legal and fiscal consequences which must be considered when considering opting for this solution:

Legal protection for the home:

The declaration of disassociation is not an obligation. To be able to delimit what is dissociable in the event that the professional activity takes place in the same place as the main residence, the surface occupied by the professional activity relative to the property's total surface area is considered:

  • If it is less than 30%, the entire property will be declared as dissociable.
  • If it is equal to or greater than 30%, only the part allocated to the main residence will be declared dissociable. A basic document must then be prepared to clearly divide the use of the building into the private and professional parts.

Fiscal deductions:

In fiscal terms, the owner may write off the professional part. The tenant may deduct a portion of the rent.

Want to know more?

The region has prepared a brochure (FR) summarizing and illustrating the rules to be respected when setting up a professional activity in a residential building.

If in doubt, do not hesitate to contact your municipality's planning department or an impulse.brussels advisor. The latter are available to answer any questions you have and to help you to fill in your planning permit when required. Your contact: Martine Denayer: 02/422.51.29 – permit@impulse.brussels.

For any additional information concerning the legal and fiscal aspects of this solution, do not hesitate to contact 1819.

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