Insurance cover is another area where many home businesses fall short.
"People should tell their home insurer if they are using their house as a business as it may have an impact on their insurance position," says Erfan Hussain, spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers.
Social housing tenants, for example, are explicitly barred from starting up a business at home.
Entrepreneurs working from home on any scale are advised by Business Link to check with their mortgage lender, freeholder or landlord. As many as eighty percent ignore the requirement to avoid the bureaucracy and extra costs involved, according to Stephen Alambritis.
On the same basis, anyone running a business from home could be liable if a visiting child was to injure themselves tripping over a PC cable or running into a filing cabinet.
The obligatory risk assessment must take account of hazards ranging from work equipment, fire, excessive noise, tripping, loneliness and stress.The VOA website contains case study examples and online assessment tool to help one assess whether business rates are likely, but there is no definitive list of guidelines."The VOA must consider the different facts applying in each case and does not operate according to a rigid set of requirements," says a VOA spokesperson.But many entrepreneurs operate "below the treeline" to avoid the cost, complication and potential barriers."More than half of all the self-employed people who work from home will neglect to tell their insurance company," says Stephen Alambritis, "and won't do so until their sales reach the point where they are obliged to register for VAT and they become an 'official business." PAYING BUSINESS RATES These administrative tasks are relatively straightforward, however, compared with the confusing red tape laid down by government and its various agencies.Anyone that works from home – even as a salaried employee – may be liable to pay business rates on the part of their home used for work, according to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).The decision is based largely on the extent and frequency to which the room or rooms are used for work and whether or not any modifications have been made to the building to accommodate work use."The likelihood of there having been such a material change of use may be indicated where the business or non-residential use generates visitors, traffic, noise or fumes over and above what might be expected if the property were in use as a single dwelling without any ancillary use.Local planning authorities should take steps to ensure that such developments are effectively controlled, and should be prepared to refuse planning permission or to use their enforcement powers where appropriate." So in theory, a home-based business is exempt from planning permission if the property is used mainly as a private residence, the sort of activities are usual in a residential area and the traffic and visitor levels remain at the current level and do not disturb the neighbours."It would be wrong to do so." HEALTH AND SAFETY Anyone running a business from home is also subject to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.There is no need for a formal, written risk assessment for a business with less than five employees.