How to establish a home-based business: practical tips for startuppers the Netherlands

If you are planning to setup your startup in a (spare) room of your house, you’ve come to the right place to find all the information that you need. Running a company from home – or from another place that you already own – can offer a number of advantages, both practical and economical, which sometimes makes it a mandatory step to be able to bootstrap your startup.

Zoning Plan

So, where to start? When you decide to establish a company in a certain location in the Netherlands, the first thing you have to do is to check whether your type of business fits with the local zoning plan.

At this point, you are probably wondering what exactly a zoning plan is…

A zoning plan (bestemmingsplan) is a scheme that designates the proper use for each land area within a Dutch municipality. Put simply, some spaces are purposed for residential use, while others are devoted to commercial or industrial purposes, for example.

You can easily check the planned purpose of each street or building in the Netherlands by consulting this website. Although the website is in Dutch, it is quite simple to use: you just put your address in the “zoek op adres” field and look at the results. Usually, if a building is designed with the label “wonen” (living) having a home office is allowed. Instead, if the space is designated as “gemengd” (mixed) or “specifieke vorm van wonen – gemengd,” it means that the space can also be used also for other kinds of businesses, such as retail, galleries, workshops, offices, etc.

If the kind of enterprise that you are going to undertake fits with the zoning plan, the only thing you need to do is to report the plan of your business to the corresponding municipality office. However, keep in mind that in some municipalities, you may need an onttrekkingsvergunning (“conversion permit”) before you are allowed to use your house as a business space.

What I should do if my business does not fit with the zoning plan?

It is possible, of course, that the kind of business that you want to undertake does not fit with the zoning plan for your property.

If this is the case, don’t let your head down yet, because you can still try to obtain the special permission “All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects.” You can apply for this either in person at the municipality, or via an online application form the website (currently in Dutch only, though). Furthermore, the waiting times to get a response can be quite long – between two and six months – and there is no guarantee of a positive outcome.

Changing your zoning plan

Therefore, we recommend that you first make an appointment with the municipality office so you can clarify your case and settle all your doubts before you submit your official request. Some municipalities even offer a specific consultation service that you can make use of, but otherwise the Message Box proves a particularly useful tool as well. This official messaging system enables you to communicate with the Dutch Government about issues related to your business. Then, when you’ve had your initial contact with the municipality, be mindful of everything that you’ve learned and handle your application with care in order to increase your chances of success.

Finally, there is a possibility to change the zoning plan for your house or property. Yet, also in this case it is better to first make an appointment with the municipality office in order to assess whether this option is realistic to make a request for in your specific situation.