How to Find Local Laws, Licenses, and Permits

Finding information to set up your local business

Finding Local Laws, Licenses, and Permits
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You can't open the doors of your business without them. I'm talking about local business licenses and permits, and information about local business laws. 

Before you start a business or open in a new location, you need information about the city, town, or county where your business will be located. You will need to find out what local regulations apply to your specific business type and how to register for them. For example: 

  • Many businesses need a local license to do business or a "fictitious name" statement
  • What permits are required, like health permits for food businesses?
  • What inspections are necessary, like fire inspection?
  • What zoning changes or variances will be needed? 

Local Business Licenses and Permits

For most localities (cities or towns) you will need a general business license for that locality. This license may be waived if you have a professional license, but check to be sure before you open. The city may also require you to have inspections by the local health department and fire department, depending on the type of business you are starting.

Local Departments to Visit to Ask About Licenses and Permits

Planning and Development - If you think you might need a zoning variance. 

Planning / Development / Zoning Department - If you think you might need a zoning variance to change the zoning of your business location. 

Building Department - If you are planning on doing construction work on your business location that needs a building permit. (Contractors are supposed to do this for you, but you may need to verify.)

Assessor / Controller / Tax Collector - To ask about property taxes and assessments on your business property.

Fire Marshal / Department - Many new businesses need a fire inspection before opening. 

Public Health Department - Food-related businesses need health and safety inspections.

 Local Business Ordinances and Laws

Whether you are buying an existing building or building your own, you should check on the city's requirements for building and zoning. For changes to a building or a new building, you will need a permit that allows construction to begin, and an occupancy permit that allows you to take possession of the building. Your contractor should be able to help with these permits. You may also need to deal with zoning restrictions if you want to change from

For a home business or a business in an area previously not zoned for your type of business, you may need to request a zoning change. Depending on your business classification, you may also need a health permit before you can open your business, and you will need to submit to an annual health department review.

City or County - General Information

Some laws, licenses, and permits are under the jurisdiction of the county where your business is located, while others are under the jurisdiction of the city. 

City Government Information

City Data is a good resource for information for marketing purposes. It includes demographic data, like average household income level, find the state where you are located, then the city. Scroll down to find the city's official website.

County Government Information

Go to the website of the  National Association of Counties and ​click on your state to find information about your county government.