Starting a home-based business in Ontario takes courage and determination. Many do so for both personal satisfaction and profit. What these neighbourhood entrepreneurs are often hoping to avoid is becoming entangled in business disputes. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened to a family that opened a new endeavour in their garage a few years ago.
In an effort to help fund their daughter’s post-secondary education, a husband and wife in Alliston opened an ice cream parlour in their garage. Opening a home-based business didn’t seem as if it would be a problem, as a neighbour runs a dog-grooming shop on the premises, and the local town council gave it their blessing. Soon, however, the owners allege that the town began to crack down on their operation.
Bylaw enforcement officers started to observe the shop on a regular basis, including one officer who visited 32 times during the summer of 2016. The council raised numerous objections to the manner in which the parlour is run, including the display of Canadian flags and Muskoka chairs, and the “unlawful” use of the patio by parlour patrons. According to the council, the primary use of the home shifted from a residence to a place of business.
When the issue went to court, the judge seemed sympathetic to the parlour owners’ plight, but still issued several orders against them. They are now required to block off the patio to prevent customers from using it, and reduce the number of nonresident employees to one. For their part, the owners filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the municipality, citing abuse of process, interference with economic relations and negligence.
For entrepreneurs running a small operation, business disputes are an unwelcome legal problem. They take away valuable time that could be otherwise spent running and growing the company. Ontario business owners may find it worthwhile to speak with a business disputes lawyer and allow him or her to take up the fight on their behalf.