One of the joys of living a private lifestyle is checking out of the world that all the other walking corpses choose to live in. No matter where you are in your quest for privacy, it has probably come to your attention that financing the private life you dream of has a few government stumbling blocks standing in your way. Many of the readers of this blog have asked questions about how to deal with City and other municipal code enforcement officers when their business is put on hold or shut down on their own property due to an obscure law or “rule”. Here’s a little guidance for you:
Code Enforcement Tactics
First of all, I have to tell you that these guys are working under a totally different set of rules and have a mindset the exact opposite of you. Things that seem reasonable to you as a property owner are not understood by code enforcement officers because they are under the impression that they are the actual owners of your property. They operate much like the German Gestapo or the Cold War KGB in communist Russia. If they think there might be a problem on your property, they will just enter without any notice or any type of warrant. Believe me; this is all unfortunately true, right here in America!
Protecting Your Home Business
- If you have a home business the first best thing you can do is research from a friend’s computer in another town. Find out if what you want to do in your particular jurisdiction is legal to run out of your house. If you go to the city office and ask they will begin watching you (trust me I know they will). If you look this up from the computer in your home there is also a good chance you will begin being watched. Never underestimate these people. They not only want your money, but they also seem to have a love for making people suffer.
- Once you find out the legality of the business, you will have to choose if you want to pull a permit. Getting a permit can actually be a way of telling on yourself. If they feel like you have already been running the business they may want some back pay and by getting the permit you give them jurisdiction (at least in their mind) to enter your property for inspections. On these inspections they will find violations to their own list of rules and fine you for those. This all will be coming out of your family’s income.
- Once you have chosen to operate under the radar, just remember that they will be watching and trying to surprise attack you. Most likely the raid will come in the form of a dork with a badge driving a smart car, but there have been occasions where agents with guns drawn have entered businesses. My example would be the armed raids on farmers selling milk. Here is a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MVwdv5HBVQ
An ounce of Prevention
Once you are busted, there will be a huge legal battle and you may lose, so I suggest reading yourself to sleep every night or saving some of your profit for a legal fund. In the meantime here are some ideas to help you avoid or at least postpone a Code Enforcement raid of your property:
- Do business after hours and on weekends if possible. Unless you are of particular interest to them you should be free to operate because most of them are the 9 to 5 type. If you have items you put on display wait until after 5pm on week days and on weekends make sure you have gathered up everything before Monday morning hits. However, beware that some municipalities will have a yard sale patrol on Saturdays.
- Keep controversial items out of site. If you can keep them in the garage or house that’s great but at least cover them with a tarp. Many times there will be a law that all vehicles have to be tagged/inspected or be in working condition. Keep them hidden.
- If you want your business to run smooth, try to make it look like you are compliant on every other aspect. A junky yard will attract attention. Keep grass cut short and minimize any obvious hazards.
- Keep on good terms with your neighbors. These are the people who will call in on you. People are weird. Don’t hurt their feelings or cause problems with them if possible.
- If you are able to operate your business based off of appointments only that is best. This way you know who is coming to your house. Even better, would be to meet the person somewhere like McDonalds. If you don’t trust them try to meet them outside of the jurisdiction you live in.
- Always operate your business with a burner phone. If you have questions about this read my blog on burner phones. https://privacyliving.com/2016/05/17/what-is-a-burner-phone-how-can-it-help-me/
If Code Enforcement decides to get nasty with you, it is important that you create some physical barriers in order to protect yourself. Remember, they may have guns, so don’t try to fight them. It is my suggestion that if the officer actually makes contact with you then you should cooperate and fight it out in court. There is no need in getting shot or creating more charges for yourself. But here are a couple of things you can do to avoid encountering them at all:
- Build a fence. You may actually have to get a permit for this fence but it will be worth it. Build it in as much of an inaccessible way as possible. You want to make it where someone has to work to get in. You also want it to block visibility as much as possible.
- Get some shrubs or other vegetation around your property. I like the kind that hurt (Cactus and yucca are among my favorites).
- Get some dogs. If you get the dogs and put up “Beware of Dog” signs, most people won’t come on your property.
- Get some cameras. If you are mild mannered this will work to your advantage if there ever is an encounter on your property. All the evidence will be there. If the cameras are in plain view it will also discourage “Boss Hogg” tactics.
- Most important of all: Do not answer the door. They are not knocking to say hi or because they are interested in your business. It is just about a guaranteed invitation to jail, court or both. Just stay inside until they leave. It could save you thousands of dollars.