Common Mistakes when
Applying for a Business License

In my experience in working with business licenses, there are quite a few common mistakes I see when people are coming into our office. Most of these can be alleviated or solved by talking to your local business licensing department before starting your business. Government entities are there to help you during this process. We always appreciate answering questions beforehand so people do not get stuck in a situation that requires city enforcement. If your local government entity doesn’t have an answer to your question, they will likely have a way to find an answer for you. Here are some of the common mistakes I see when people are applying for a business license.

Signing a lease before checking with the city’s zoning rules:

This is surprisingly common. I have seen quite a few businesses find a space that they think is perfect for what they do, only for the business type to not be allowed in that specific zone, or have various other limitations on it. I always recommend talking with the Planning and Zoning Department of the city your business is going into prior to signing the lease. You never know if the use you’re doing is not allowed, requires more parking, more space, or anything of that sort.

If by chance you have signed a lease only to find out your business can not be located there, check your lease to see if it has a licensing clause. If it is noted that your lease will be void if you cannot obtain a business license, the city could provide proof of the inability to be licensed to your landlord to see if that may get you out of it.

Not being prepared:

Registering your business is a very important aspect to getting started, as mentioned in this blog post (http://wbcutah.com/registering-your-business ). Of course your jurisdiction can show you how to get registered properly, but you will want to be sure that your registration matches your business type and you are getting the correct tax numbers needed as well. I would recommend doing research into entity registration types for your business. You can find more information on different entity types and how they apply to your business here: http://corporations.utah.gov/business/index.html

Not having proper state licensing for a specific trade:

Another issue I see come up is people applying for a license that requires additional licensing from the state that they don’t have. This would include any profession that requires licensing from the Utah Division of Occupations and Professional Licensing. Some common professions I see that fall under this category are: Massage Therapists, Construction companies, Cosmetologists, Nail Technicians, Electricians, Estheticians, and many others. If you need to see a complete list that can be found here: http://dopl.utah.gov/licensing/index.html

Making changes to the business without updating your license:

There are quite a few scenarios that may require updating your local government entity to be sure your license is correct. One that I see often is a business expanding into the building your business is occupying, as there may be some building code requirements that need to be noted. Another common one would be a new owner or company buying out the existing business. Depending on the jurisdiction, this could make the current license void and require an entirely new one. Other simple updates would be things such as phone numbers, emails, or just any contact information the city might have on file. It is best to at least check this annually with your government entity to be sure your business license has the correct information on it.

Not applying for a business license:

Typically when I find a business that is unlicensed, it is not because they are trying to avoid the city but rather because they were not sure of what was required. This is especially common along the borders of our city, since the business could have simply moved across the street and not realized that their business license did not transfer with them. Be sure to double check which city your business will be located in, whether it is located out of your home or out of a commercial space. After checking, contact the local jurisdiction to see what licensing requirements they have so you’re able to get started as soon as you move in. This prevents unnecessary enforcement from the city which can include fines.

If you ever have questions about starting your business, don’t be afraid to ask your local entity or the Women’s Business Center as they have excellent resources to get you started, and will be more than happy to help you.

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Marissa Kearns
Business License Official
South Salt Lake City
Department of Business Licensing

Marissa has been working with the City of South Salt Lake for the past three years, most recently as their Business License Official. Having gone to SUU for her undergrad in Criminal Justice, learning business has become a new and exciting adventure for her. Outside of work she enjoys spending time outdoors and going to live music shows, having become known around the office as the concert aficionado.