Home Based Businesses

Home based businesses (often called Home Occupations) require a Business License and must provide proof of residency at the address associated with the home occupation. Home occupations are defined as a business, profession, occupation, or trade which is conducted within a dwelling unit by a resident of the dwelling unit, secondary to the residential use of the lot and which does not adversely affect the character of the lot or surrounding area. Home occupation includes but is not limited to: offices; electronic and offsite retail; personal services such as physical therapy by licensed individuals, beauty parlors, pet grooming, art studios, and similar uses.

Requirements for home occupations:

  1. Must be conducted within the principal dwelling or accessory structure. (No outdoor operations permitted.)
  2. A maximum of two home occupations are permitted per residence. 
  3. The business cannot exceed 25 percent of the gross floor area of the principal structure or must be fully contained within the accessory structure where the use takes place.
  4. The principal person or persons providing the business or service must reside in the dwelling on the premises.
  5. The use must be conducted entirely by the occupants of the residence and no person who is not a resident of the principal dwelling may be employed in connection with the home occupation except employees working from other remote locations. 
  6. The home occupation may cause no change in the external appearance of the existing dwelling and structures on the property.
  7. All vehicles used in connection with the home occupation must be of a size, and located on the premises in such a manner, so as to not disrupt the quiet nature and visual quality of the neighborhood and there may be no more than two vehicles per home occupation.
  8. Signs are only permitted in accordance with Section 40.2-307 of the Zoning Ordinance. 
  9. The property may contain no outdoor display or storage of goods, equipment, or services that are associated with the home occupation.
  10. Any wholesale or retail sales of goods must be either electronic or offsite.  No wholesale or retail sales of goods may occur on the premises.
  11. Personal services provided as home occupations are subject to the following requirements:
    1. That no more than one customer may be provided service at the same time, and
    2. That the operator obtain and maintain in effect all required permits and licenses
  12. The following home occupations are prohibited:
    1. Vehicle repair and similar uses
    2. Dentists or physician’s offices and similar uses 
    3. Any licensed or unlicensed practitioner who performs invasive procedures (acupuncture, tattooing, body piercing, and similar uses)
    4. Restaurants, bars, social clubs, and similar uses
    5. Animal kennels or hospitals and similar uses 
    6. The sale of firearms
    7. Any other business that is clearly inappropriate or out of character for a residential area such that its location constitutes an adverse impact on neighboring residential properties.

Zoning Business License Clearance Application

Zoning staff is available for walk-in customers between the hours of 8:00am and 4:00pm Monday through Friday. No appointment needed.

The Zoning Business License Clearance Application is required to approve the use of a business (including home based businesses) prior to the issuance of a Business License through the Commissioner of the Revenue. (Note that obtaining the actual business license is a separate process conducted through the Commissioner of the Revenue.) 

The Zoning Business License Clearance Application can be downloaded here. Zoning Business License Clearance Application

Applicants should be sure to consult the checklist on the application to ensure that all the required information and materials are included with the application when it is submitted. The Zoning staff can be consulted if additional information is needed prior to submitting an application.

Zoning Business License Clearance Application Submission

Completed applications should be submitted by email whenever possible. Email applications and associated supporting materials for Zoning Business License Clearance to portsmouth.zoning@portsmouthva.gov.

Electronic/digital submission of applications and other materials is encouraged whenever feasible.

Zoning application materials and documents should not be placed in any dropbox or included with submissions to other city departments. 

Required documents must be submitted directly to the Zoning staff and are required in addition to documents submitted to other departments.

For items that cannot be emailed, applicants can send items by US Postal Service, FedEx, or UPS (as appropriate for the application type).



Please note that after the Zoning Business License Clearance is approved, the applicant will need to apply separately for the actual business license with the Commissioner of the Revenue.