Regulation

Judge Rules Businesswoman Must Remove Dresses From Her Home

Fairfax County, Virginia, allows home businesses but prohibits them from keeping inventory on site.

|

E-commerce has allowed people to operate businesses from their own homes, provided local zoning ordinances don't get in the way.

In Virginia this past Friday, the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled that Marietta Grundlehner had to stop selling dresses online from her Springfield townhouse and get rid of any remaining inventory at her home.

The decision, which comes after two years of wrangling with code enforcers, is financially devastating for Grundlehner, who says her dress business earned her $30,000 a year she now might have to go without.

"It's terrifying to think, 'How am I going to make my car payment. Am I going to lose things like car insurance because I can't pay them?' There are so many things I pay for with that money that I don't know what I'm going to do," Grundlehner told local ABC affiliate WJLA.

Grundlehner, according to a petition she started on Change.org, started selling clothing from LulaRoe, a multi-level marketing business, out of her home several years ago to supplement her income from her day job as a teacher. Wanting to spend more time with her young son, she decided to make it a full-time gig.

This, apparently, was illegal. Fairfax County's zoning code allows home businesses, but it forbids storing, displaying, or selling inventory from a residence unless those wares are also manufactured on-site. And Grundlehner purchased finished products from LulaRoe before reselling them via the internet.

Grundlehner was able to operate her business in peace for several years. But in January 2018, someone dimed her out to county code enforcers. Like many local governments, Fairfax County doesn't actively seek out code violations to stop, instead responding to complaints made by residents.

"We don't go out looking for people who are in violation. Someone in her community, someone in any community that has an issue, calls our code compliance department," Fairfax County Supervisor Dan Storck told WJLA. The county receives fewer than 200 such complaints each year; most, he said, turn out either to be resolvable quickly or not to be violations at all.

That wasn't the case with Grundlehner. She told WJLA that she first got a home occupation permit in April 2018, after consulting with zoning inspectors. But since the underlying nature of her home business was still illegal, this offered her little protection and she continued to receive notices of violation.

At a hearing Friday, Grundlehner was told she had to cease selling clothes from her home and get rid of her inventory within five business days.

For now, Grundlehner is hoping the county will change its zoning code to let her business continue.

Grundlehner's situation is similar to the case of Lij Shaw, a Nashville musician whose home studio business was targeted by code enforcers after an anonymous tipster informed them that Shaw was having musicians over to record, in violation of the city's prohibition on client visits to home businesses.

Shaw has been fighting for his right to continue operating his home recording studio ever since. In 2017, he sued the city, arguing that its ban on client prohibitions violated Tennessee's state constitution.

Shaw is being represented by the Insitute for Justice and by Tennessee's Beacon Center. A lower court dismissed his lawsuit in October, and he is currently appealing it.

Home businesses are rarely flat-out banned in the U.S. Instead, home business owners find themselves tripped up by antiquated restrictions on what commercial activities they can and cannot do from their homes. Changing these laws is often an uphill battle against entrenched neighborhood groups who see the strict separation of residential and commercial spaces as essential to preserving their quality of life.

As the internet allows people to do more and more business from their homes, these kinds of home business restrictions will kneecap entrepreneurs trying to make a living through the creative use of their property.

Advertisement

NEXT: Oklahoma Wants To Use Its Old Lethal Injection Protocol, Despite Past Botched Executions

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Makes me wonder how often people were coming over to cause someone make the complaint.

    1. I was wondering that too… but I’m also wondering that once she declared she was running a home business and was on the up-and-up, that code enforcers themselves can now come into the home.

    2. The article says she was selling on the internet, so it’s possible that nobody was.

      It could just be that she has a dick for a neighbor.

      1. That’s my guess, that some jealous neighbor saw all those UPS/FedEx trucks and decided to drop said dime.

    3. Having lived in Fairfax county, I’m just gonna say that her neighbors are likely just tremendous assholes. If holier-than-thou busybodies had a Mecca, it would be Fairfax County VA.

      1. naaa, it’s a common stick-up-the-ass of religious bitties everywhere with nothing better to do.

    4. I’ll just take a stab at it and guess that either she talked too much in front of the wrong people or had an ex [friend/partner] who decided to cause her trouble. I’ve seen both happen too often. Competitors will narc you out in nothing flat and when riffs become personal, some bitchy little people will turn over every rock to hurt you.

  2. Fairfax County’s zoning code allows home businesses, but it forbids storing, displaying, or selling inventory from a residence unless those wares are also manufactured on-site.

    All she needs to do is add a small iron-on label in some hidden place to make the dresses ‘manufactured on site’. Problem solved. Fork fairfux county.

    1. That’s a good point. Be interesting to see how that might be solved.

    2. This. It’s like some car “manufacturing” in the U.S.

      1. Actually it fits the IRS definition of manufacturing

      2. I bet that she can find good models at sex in burgenland for testing products

    3. Scale back your expected $30K per annum to a scant $28K per annum and you can afford a 10×10 storage unit full of dresses pretty much anywhere outside LA and New York.

      1. That’s what I was thinking as well, keep the inventory in a storage unit, put a table and you do your shipping prep there too, and probably get UPS/FedEx to pick up from the storage unit

        1. Exactly what I was thinking. It’s still bullshit, but not something she can’t work around.

        2. Better yet, hire a drop shipper. Never even have to handle the goods yourself!

    4. Wouldn’t it be simpler for her to rent a storage unit? Plus that frees up room in her home. Win-win.

  3. Grundlehner, according to a petition she started on Change.org, started selling clothing from LulaRoe, a multi-level marketing business

    I can’t help but wonder if the code enforcers are accidentally doing her a favor.

    1. I couldn’t believe the check when Phil showed it to me! Now I are working a few hourly per week from home making $8400 and last week I bought my mother a 1978 Toyota Corolla from the money I making! See how I do it from clicking this link at http://www.lularoe.dot.com!

      1. Oh, fuck yeah, that $30K is garbage. She’s not selling $30K worth of clothes, she’s selling maybe $5K after buying $10K and earning the rest on paper having people over and signing people up.

        The neighbors aren’t complaining about the fact that she’s selling dresses. They’re complaining that she’s having “parties” 5 nights a week signing people and she won’t stop pressuring them to buy her shit*.

        *I’m absolutely 100% not projecting about any of this and totally haven’t had at least 3 stay-at-home moms try to foist this MLM crap on us at kid’s sporting events or dinner parties or whatever.

        1. I’ll go with 90% chances that she’s just one who doesn’t shut up. If this were nothing but an online business, other than a few friends and maybe a partner, who would know that she actually has inventory if she weren’t running her mouth? And who would know exactly what that inventory is or that she doesn’t make it herself?

          Second, this she is not a very bright woman, or perhaps way too trusting. There’s no suggestion they raided her house, so without an admission, there’s nothing to corroborate an inventory allegation. “Business, what business?” That’s all there would have been to it. Hell, I couldn’t even get the cops to go into a neighbor’s house until the body started to smell. An over-zealous public employee trying to ferret out the truth about her activities flies in the face of everything I know about public service employees. They aren’t that dedicated.

          People need to learn to quit running their mouths, particularly if it can’t help you.

          1. I would go with the not very bright. I did a search and the average pay for a teacher in Fairfax is over twice the dress sales.

        2. Like most MLM scams it is mostly just a pyramid scheme. Hardly anyone makes money and turns into an annoying jerk to try and rope other people in. Most likely whoever turned her in was just a pissed off neighbor who had enough of her.

          I think we all know people who have gotten into these. One story. I have a cousin. I like the guy we were kids together but he got into one of these. So there was a family event which happened to be right down the street from where both our fathers and other relatives are buried. I thought it would be an appropriate time to go there. He follows me up and right there as I am paying my respects starts to launch into his sales spiel. In this place.

      2. Damn it, Jerry, you got me.

  4. More like unfairfax. Am I right, people?

  5. Changing these laws is often an uphill battle against entrenched neighborhood groups who see the strict separation of residential and commercial spaces as essential to preserving their quality of life.

    Beware of old men bearing clipboards.

  6. On the one hand, do what you want at home. I know a lot of women who sell crap out of the home.

    On the other hand she’s probably a shitty neighbor, and leaves a mess of boxes and packing material outside. Either that, or someone is salty they didn’t get invited to a party.

    But if you’ve gone to selling full time, why stay in an expensive/oppressive neighborhood like Fairfax?

  7. Teacher loses fight against dress code…

    1. Clearly a case of Principals over principles.

      1. Or at least vice principals..

  8. and get rid of any remaining inventory at her home

    Isn’t that what she’s been trying to do?!

  9. On the one hand, her property, she should get to direct the use. You’d have to go pretty far to even make the case that her use is infringing on her neighbor’s use of common/shared resources or services. (I’m sure at some point, “keeping inventory on residential-zoned property” could have volume that overtaxes the traffic capacity in the neighborhood or something)

    But seriously, what part of “MLM inventory stocking” can’t be fulfilled with a $2k storage unit budget? This whole notion of “I’m going to lose $30k of income from them destroying my small business” tells me you’re not fit to run a “business” if you can’t come up with alternatives.

    1. She’s probably doing the whole thing from home, having inventory on site is important. While she could get a storage unit, she’d have to then regularly go to/from the storage unit to fulfill orders and manage inventory. That takes time and resources.

      It’s also Fairfax county, I’m skeptical you can get a storage unit for $2k/year there and even if you can you’ll spend 2 hours getting to it because of traffic.

      1. And even then, constantly going back and forth to a storage unit may draw the attention of local law enforcement.

        1. As I understand it, this is a MLM scheme that’s teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and has had multiple pyramid-scheme lawsuits filed against it, their “fashion consultants” can either sell online or from their homes – I suspect this lady is basically running a dress shop out of her basement and the traffic is an issue.

          1. Grundlehner estimates the county’s decision to shut down her LuLaRoe business will cost her between $25,000 and $30,000 in lost income.

            Yeah. She’s not saying she turned in $25K-30K on her 1040 the last 2 yrs., she’s saying the next year is when she’s finally going to get 2-3 more people to hock the merchandise she’s got in her house and, once she’s got it all moved, it’ll be $30K gross including what Lularoe kicks back to her for signing up 2-3 other schmucks to buy $5K worth of dresses to clutter up their townhomes.

          2. Being MLM is the big caveat in this story, with honorable mention to the “fashion” market. Is there possibly a single MLMer who hasn’t brought in at least a few people who are highly pissed about the lies and the inventory they got suckered into buying, and doesn’t want revenge on the bitch who proved their stupidity? Someone got their revenge.

      2. It’s also Fairfax county, I’m skeptical you can get a storage unit for $2k/year there and even if you can you’ll spend 2 hours getting to it because of traffic.

        No. Maybe not a 20×20 unit but certainly 5×10 or 10×10 or bigger. Matching the storage area to that of a townhouse won’t come to a significant portion of your $30K income. Also, since you’re a shipping and logistics business, you can schedule your packaging and pickup to avoid commuting delays.

        Not saying it would be flawless and am agreeing that the process is the punishment when it shouldn’t be, but the “Woe is me. However will I find $30K in income?!” story doesn’t hold water. Either the $30K is inflated, she’s being lazy about seeking alternatives, or both.

        1. I legitimately don’t know, but would the storage unit places let you run a business out of it? I’ve never seen the lease paperwork, but it wouldn’t surprise me if most of them don’t want you doing that kind of thing out of their facility.

          And yeah, I’m sure there’s a workable solution, but none as workable as “I’ll do whatever the fuck I’d like in my living room”.

          1. Define “running a business out of it”. Probably at least half of all storage spaces are rented for commercial enterprises. No, they aren’t going to let you open shop, keep hours, entertain customers, or run a sale there. But running over to get your inventory or equipment is a very common practice.

  10. Used to live in Fairfax county and there are LOTS of storage places, particularly as you get away from DC. $2k would pay for it, or very close. Perhaps she should move to a place closer to a unit to lessen her inconvenience to use one?

  11. The State is your enemy.

  12. Terima kasih telah berbagi artikel ini, Sungguh luar biasa Bung …
    Silakan kunjungi situs web saya http://27.124.27.115

  13. Considering the extreme advantage a home storage business has over the brick and mortar, the least she could do is rent a storage unit for her inventory to level the playing field. It works both ways.

  14. Terima kasih telah berbagi artikel ini, Sungguh luar biasa Bung …
    Silakan kunjungi situs web saya https://captaindominoq.com/

  15. Start now earning extra $16,750 to $19,000 per month by doing an easy home based job in part time only. Last month i have got my 3rd paycheck of $17652 by giving this job only 3 hrs a day online on my Mobile. Every person can now get this today and makes extra cash by follow details her==►Read MoRe 

  16. Start getting paid every month online from home more than $15k just by doing very simple and easy job from home. Last month i have earned $17954 from this online job just by giving this 2 hrs a day using my laptop. I am now a good online earner. Get this job you guys also and start earning money online right now by follow details here………… Read More

  17. Determining what she will do now is easy. She should click on one of those annoying spambot commenters here. They are near illiterates who make 6,000 a month at home on their computer and always seem to buy some obscure and/or cheap new car with the proceeds.

    Seriously though, fuck those guys. They are easily the most loathsome commenters on here.

  18. Ok, I’m not a LulaRoe expert, but there is a woman in our neighborhood who sells their products, so I’ll add a few things that I think respond to the comments of others.
    Yes, they are allowed to market and sell over the internet, but like so many of these multi-level marketing companies, in person sales is still the key. She probably had parties where 5-10 women would get together, drink wine and buy tights (It’s kind of lower end Lulu Lemon). So she’d have inventory for them to try on and take with them if they liked it. In theory she could store it off site and bring it back for parties, but that would be a pain.
    The woman in my neighborhood gets lots of boxes from UPS/FedEx because I think the online orders come to her and she delivers them to build the relationship, so that may bother her neighbors. The article said ‘townhome’ so I’m guessing that there’s a neighbor in very close proximity who doesn’t like the parties or the deliveries.
    Honestly, I suspect that reps from Avon, Amway, Tupperware, Candle Light, etc. all hold inventory in their private residences. I also suspect that if they actually enforced this law against everyone who did, it would get overturned at the next election as there are tons of people doing this.

    1. Honestly, I suspect that reps from Avon, Amway, Tupperware, Candle Light, etc. all hold inventory in their private residences. I also suspect that if they actually enforced this law against everyone who did, it would get overturned at the next election as there are tons of people doing this.

      Disgree. There are tons of people doing this. None of them constitute even a slim minority in any given district. 50,000 employees consultants would be a massive sales network, 50,000 spread across the US would be lucky to get parking restrictions overturned.

  19. “Grundlehner was able to operate her business in peace for several years. But in January 2018, someone dimed her out to county code enforcers. ”

    A couple of things:

    1) Find out who dimed her out. Request thru FOIA or whatever process Fairfax has to get public records.
    2) Once you find out that it was neighbor Margery who did it, make her life hell.
    3) Rent a fucking storage unit for your inventory.

  20. Many people mentioned the storage unit

    Duh

    As long as you have any storage unit, that is where you store things

    Everything in your house came from or is going to the unit

  21. Explore a job trnsfer to another school where she can live in a genuine subdivision of America. (be careful of HOA’s in many towns and cities, even counties)

    Keep “samples” at home.. sell from that stock, replace with what she holds in a small rent-a-unit storage place.

    OR< figure out or invent some tiny little thing SHE does to each piece before it can be shipped out… she thus "manufactures" or "makes" at home. Once she starts doing this, from the piece, it seems she's fine.

  22. Lots of people work from home which is a great thing. A few do see clients from their home office. Around here nobody has complained. I don’t know at what point the city can or would step in if it happened.

    The studio guy it is obvious what is going on. The big dollar Nashville studios don’t want competition.

  23. Start now earning extra $16,750 to $19,000 per month by doing an easy home based job in part time only. Last month i have got my 3rd paycheck of $17652 by giving this job only 3 hrs a day online on my Mobile. Every person can now get this today and makes extra cash by follow details her==►Read MoRe 

  24. Start getting paid every month online from home more than $15k just by doing very simple and easy job from home. Last month i have earned $17954 from this online job just by giving this 2 hrs a day using my laptop. I am now a good online earner. Get this job you guys also and start earning money online right now by follow details here………… Read More

  25. As long as my neighbour’s business doesn’t cause me grief, I have no problem.

  26. I would say “drop-ship” or “Fulfillment by Amazon” but LuLaRoe is a multi-level-marketing, pyramid-scam that requires ‘associates’ purchase and ship inventory

    https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/stephaniemcneal/lularoe-millennial-women-entrepreneurship-lawsuits

    Lawsuits, mountains of unsold leggings, and families drowning in debt: the tumultuous story behind a multilevel marketing brand that promised millennial women a pathway to financial freedom.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.