In order to legally own and operate a business anywhere in the city of Albany, you need a Business License.
If you want to run this business from your home, you need an additional permit: the Home Occupation Permit. In this post I’ll tell you how I went about obtaining both the permit and the license.
Once I had figured out that I needed these two documents, I spent some time looking around the website that the city of Albany has. Under the header ‘Doing Business’, I found the content I needed. As it turns out, there are different types of licenses for different types of businesses.
If, like me, you will be working from your home, you will need the Home Occupation Permit. The process of getting this permit is relatively straightforward. First, read the regulations for these permits here, and see if the business you plan on running does not violate any of these regulations. Then, click here to download the form to request the permit.
If you own your home, you will need to know if your home is a condominium. If it is, then you are a member of a Home Owners Association [HOA]. A representative of the HOA needs to sign the form with which you request the permit. You don’t live in a condominium? Cool, you can sign your own application and submit it.
Do you rent? In that case, the owner of your place (the landlord) will need to sign your application. The best way to obtain that signature is to fill out the entire form, but hold off on signing it. Then hand it off to your landlord. When they have signed it, take the form – still unsigned by you – to the Albany City Hall (1000 San Pablo Avenue).
Once you’re there, pay the fee (I paid $70), sign the form and hand it in.
The Actual License
In order to get the Business License that goes along with your Home Occupation Permit, you need to present yourself in person at the Albany City Hall. Now that’s convenient, because you needed to give these people your Home Occupation Permit anyway. So, walk up to the window that says ‘Finance and Administrative Services’ and tell them why you’re there.
They will provide you with a sign-off sheet, which instructs you to get three different signatures. One from the Fire Department, one from Community Development and Environment Services and the last one from Building Inspection.
Two of the three signatures you need, you can get by simply moving over to the next window in the city hall building. There you will find both Building Inspection and Community Development and Environment Services.
NB: It is possible that the person who does building inspections is not in, but his colleagues will happily tell you when he is in and how to reach him to make sure you get your signature as soon as possible. They will not let you leave your form behind for him, you keep in mind that you may have to make two trips. Helpful rumor: Your best bet is to go in early in the morning.
The third signature was my favourite one. It takes you to the Fire Department, which is just around the corner from the city hall. Again, explain why you are there, then answer a few questions about your apartment regarding smoke detectors and such. In order to get a signature from one of the firefighters, you will likely have to sign a declaration in return, stating that you have photoelectric smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher in your apartment.
With the third signature now on your list, go back to the first window in the city hall builing. There, pay the fee for the business license itself. This fee is $256 for a full year, but since 2013 is almost over already, you’ll only pay a fraction of that amount.
A few weeks later, you will received the license in the mail. All is well that ends well. Until January, that is, because that’s when everybody needs to get their license renewed.
Pro-tip: Keep your receipts and file the costs as business expenses.