Skip to main content

Hello everyone, I am going to be turning the guest house of my new home into a recording studio, I wouldn’t consider the project to be a "home recording" studio because it's just to massive of a space and the budget for construction and equipment is far above what could be considered a "home recording project", I would like to know if anyone has gone through this, I'm interested in the legal aspects of having a real, legitimate recording studio business on my residential property, I am in no means a law student and have no idea what strings I am going to have to pull to accomplish this, I'm interested in having a registered company name, copyrights, etc, the whole shebang.

In the past I’ve had a few small converted garage studios and I'm fully aware that this isn’t technically "legal", also the fact that charging people for recording or calling yourself a "business" in this case is also illegal, what steps do you have to take outside of actually constructing the studio, to be recognized as a legal, legitimate recording studio located on a residential plot of land?


Thomas W. Bethel Tue, 12/20/2005 - 06:41

A lot depends on where your house is located within a city. Some cities allow only residential houses in a particular zone some allow mixed residential and light commercial in the same zone and some cities and townships allow almost anything if there are no complaints. You did not state where this house was but a house with a guest house must be in a fairly well to do part of the city. I would check the local zoning laws and you can do that at the city hall. You also don't say whether this is going to be for you personally or for outside work and that too will make a BIG difference. If you are going to get a zoning variance (what you need to open something that is not suppose to be there) I would hire a good lawyer. Don't think that by not saying anything about what you are about to do is the way to go. Here is what happen to a friend of mine.

Recently I had a friend who converted an out building on his property to a commercial studio. This is in a part of town that was zoned residential. He spent a lot of money making sure there was no noise getting out of the studio and none getting in. It was in a quiet part of town on a cul-de-sac and his nearest neighbors were a couple of hundred feet away. He did not tell his neighbors that he was doing this but they found out and his nearest neighbor went to the city and complained that this was going to be a source of noise, that there would be drugs and drunken people carousing around the studio and that people would be driving in and out at all time of the day and night upsetting the neighborhood. (this was all before the studio was even completed) The neighbor made such a fuss that the city came and shut down the studio before it was opened. My friend had about $60,000 invested in the reconstruction of the outbuilding and lost it all. He now uses the building for his own playing and has opened his studio in a part of town that is all commercial buildings.

Zoning is something that is best left to a lawyer to understand but I would be much more concerned about your neighbors and what they will think and do. Sometimes even having the possibility of all those smelly, dirty, drunk , drug using musicians around a "good neighborhood" will drive the locals to raise a fuss.

Thomas W. Bethel Tue, 12/20/2005 - 10:24

It all depends on your zoning board. I would go down to your city hall and find out if they have a zoning map and find your house on the zoning map and see what zone it is in. The place were I live is zoned residential and commercial but just in back of me it is only residential. Some times different sides of the street or houses next to each other can be zoned differently. Sometimes whole sub divisions can be zoned one way or the other. You would have to apply for a zoning variance if your house is not in a commercial zone and you wanted to commercial work and that sometimes can be very tricky and your neighbors would have to be informed of the changes requested and could have a say if it is permitted. The way some cities permit businesses in a residential area is to say that they can exist if there is no impact on the area such as excessive traffic or smells or noises. Our city has a whole long list of businesses that can exist as a home business and a bigger list of what is not permitted. Things like junk yards, tire repair, auto repair shops and any thing using animals or animal by products are not considered home business and are not allowed in residential communities.

I had a problem with my next door neighbor's renter. One day I was doing some listening and I heard a chain saw going on and on and on. I figured it was someone cutting down a tree but it went on forever. I finally went out doors and there was my neighbor's renter carving up a big log into a totem pole. I stopped her chain sawing and asked what she was doing. She replied that she was an artist and what she did day in and day out was to carve totem poles with a chain saw, an air driven rotary rasp and an air driven sander. Needless to say I went to the city, they shut her down that afternoon and she had to move on to a more "rural" setting to practice her "art". This was not an approved home business and she was making way too much noise. My neighbor on the other side runs a business from her home and you would not even know she had a business in her home as there are no cars and no noise and no smells.

Go to the city and find out what is permitted and what is not. You do not even have to give your name or address to see a zoning map but you may have to give them your address if you want to know specifics. I live in Ohio and California zoning laws maybe different.

Best of luck! Hope this helps.

anonymous Thu, 12/22/2005 - 04:20

garymaurizi wrote: I was wondering more or less what zoning laws the land would have to have to be considered residential & business?

Thomas is right on. Your most likely gonna have ta' call the county (you live in) and they have the information on your particular zoning. Because your house could be one thing, and the guy across the street is another. So it really doesn't help to even ask your neighbor what his zoning is.
Please keep us posted, I am looking to do the exact same thing in about a year or so.
FYI---The 3 other (home) studio's I ran out of my houses, were in some how or another, always a problem. Mostly with the neighbors.
Alot with the neighbors. I had one lady take me to court, for noise. And cops stopping by to "check up on things", and of course tell us to stop.

I wish you luck, and very few problems!
Please write a few updates on your progress. This should make a great topic.