Cottage Laws, Legal, Illegal ..... Advice Please!

Business By BakerAnn Updated 27 May 2011 , 6:00am by BakerAnn

BakerAnn Posted 24 May 2011 , 7:15am
post #1 of 12

I have just read the umpteenth thread on this subject I am now so thoroughly confused I really need some clarification, if others would be so kind.

I keep hearing about becoming "legal," yet in my new state of Wyoming I have been advised that baking and selling from home is perfectly O.K. because of our Cottage Law. Yes, I have a tax ID and have no intention of trying to cheat on my taxes or anything else. But do those of us working under the Cottage Law need to "get legal" as well? And if so, what all does that mean? If it requires a separate kitchen and entrance, lots of commercial equipment and such, I am out of business. No way we as retired folks on hubby's disability and my cakes can afford that.

I honestly thought that with the Cottage law I was "legal!"

Thank you to all who can offer some insight into this.

11 replies
scp1127 Posted 24 May 2011 , 7:24am
post #2 of 12

Every area is different. My states do not have cottage industry. Check with your local health department, your state dept of agriculture, and read the websites with the law and codes. This information will tell you if you need to register, or just keep records. Both of my states have strict, expensive requirements. But that was how I learned. This way, you don't have to worry if you get conflicting information. You can verify it yourself and then question any inconsistencies.

KellyJo3 Posted 24 May 2011 , 10:43am
post #3 of 12

I live in Virginia, and we have a cottage food law. In every city but mine (Hampton) you are allowed to bake from home with legal requirements. I unfortunately have to rent kitchen space to operate my business. I also had to get the rented kitchen inspected even though it was already approved through the dept. of agr. I also had to get a DBA, business and sellers license and tax ID. When I first wanted to start my business I was told through my local health department that I was allowed to operate from home and I spent LOTS of money fixing up my kitchen. I was told a month after that, that I was not able to and ended up renting kitchen space. So I would not only contact your local health department to find out their specifications, but I would call your state's dept. of agricultrure just to make sure everyone is on the same page. Good luck! : )

Jaimelt76 Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:03am
post #4 of 12

Here in Michigan I am considered legal under the cottage food law. My only requirements are to label everything, no internet sales, no selling to businesses, and make sure nothing is sold that has to be in a controlled temp. HTH

lainalee Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:38am
post #5 of 12

I too live in Michigan and we were thrilled at the passing of the Cottage Law here. Every state is different though, but here we are still goverened under the Deptartment of Agriculture. You need to check with your states goverement, I am guessing it would still be Dept of Ag. In Mi a Cottage Law baker is required to bake and store all items for resale in the same area as she//he does for their family. The same with equipment. Cannot be done in another building (garage, etc.) and must be labled with ingredients and stating that it was baked in an unlicsensed kitchen that has not been inspected by the Dept. Of Agriculture. HTH good luck!

AmysCakesNCandies Posted 24 May 2011 , 11:52am
post #6 of 12

In NC we have cottage Laws (Which I fall under) In addition to a bussiness licence & tax ID, insurace etc that all businessed need there are additional requirements & restrictions as a food bussiness. Check with your Health Dept or Dept of Agriculture (here its Dept of Agriculture) for thier requirements. For example I can cook out of my family kitchen using the same equiptment but I had to have my water tested for bacteria, install shatter proof light bulbs, store my food & supplies seperately in a sanitary manner, etc.... and get inspected by the dept. of agriculture. There are also some restrictions on what i can produce for sale and am required to provide ingredient information.

BakerAnn Posted 25 May 2011 , 7:03am
post #7 of 12

Thank you to everyone who replied. I'll do some more digging and make sure I'm not getting myself into trouble out here!

JoanieB Posted 26 May 2011 , 1:22pm
post #8 of 12

BakerAnn, I just went through this whole thing and have a thread about push back. So, first thing is first you need to know what your cottage law actually says. Depending who I spoke with at the health department I would get different answers, yes you can, no you can't, it's only for farmer's markets. In my case that was not true. My zoning department cleared me to open my home occupation business so I then obtained a city business license which cost $50. Then I applied to become an LLC through my state website, that was $40. I applied for a tax ID through the IRS website and that was free. Now I'm sending in for a state tax ID which will cost $50.

I guess the important thing is know what your cottage food bill actually says and do not necessarily rely on what the HD tells you, especially if it's new. And your zoning office is basically the do or die. They may even have to be educated if they give you pushback. My problem was city hall didn't want to give it to me because they didn't think I could do that but zoning was down with it. With a cottage food law you shouldn't have to have a licensed kitchen which is the idea of a cottage food law to begin with. Just speak with your zoning office. The worst that can happen is they say no: )

BakerAnn Posted 26 May 2011 , 5:51pm
post #9 of 12

Thank you JoanieB. I just went and read your entire "Push Back" thread and as soon as my headache clears up I'm getting back to my research of this whole thing, LOL! icon_lol.gif

I live in a ranching community; the nearest town (or gas or even convenience store) is 30 miles away so zoning is not a problem here. Looks like much of the Cottage Law is open to interpretation by whoever happens to answer the phone on any given day.

JoanieB Posted 26 May 2011 , 10:24pm
post #10 of 12

Well, that's good then if you don't have to worry about zoning. Probably just need to set up as a DBA or LLC through your state, get a tax id through the IRS and state. Good luck!

scp1127 Posted 27 May 2011 , 3:03am
post #11 of 12

You need to get a copy of the code and read it for yourself. You should not base a business on what you hear from an employee. If the person happens to be wrong, you will have to stop. Also, cottage law is a state law, usually administered by the Dept of Ag. The counties have the right to enforce more requirements, just not less. So if your county did not change their requirements, you cannot have a kitchen under the law. In our county, the requirements are close to FDA codes. In the next county, I would not eat there, the requirements are so disgustingly low. And that is for restaurants too.

BakerAnn Posted 27 May 2011 , 6:00am
post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

You need to get a copy of the code and read it for yourself. You should not base a business on what you hear from an employee. If the person happens to be wrong, you will have to stop. Also, cottage law is a state law, usually administered by the Dept of Ag. The counties have the right to enforce more requirements, just not less. So if your county did not change their requirements, you cannot have a kitchen under the law. In our county, the requirements are close to FDA codes. In the next county, I would not eat there, the requirements are so disgustingly low. And that is for restaurants too.




You are right on all counts, scp1127. Not to worry, I will read every word of the code because of exactly what you said. Any given employee's answer may reflect their mood that day, and might not have any basis in fact.

I agree that there has to be a middle ground somewhere about sanitary conditions. Believe me I have a long list of restaurants at which I would never sit down and order a meal. Yet those of us who by necessity most do our caking from home need to have the ability to do so without having to jump through countless hoops designed to keep us from our livelihood.

Thank you for taking time to reply. icon_smile.gif

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