YouTubers Face Fines, Possible Eviction For Making Videos From Their Home

YouTuber and Call of Duty team owner Justin "KOSDFF" Chandler recently moved into a home in Cobb County, Georgia with a bunch of fellow YouTubers. Their plan? To play games, vlog and, you know, exist. But then they got in trouble with the law.

It was a strange situation from the get-go. Seemingly out of the blue, Chandler said he received a notification from the Homeowner's Association that doing YouTube stuff in Cobb County, Georgia counts as running a business from your home. He was warned that he and his housemates could face fines of $US136 ($181) per day or, if they didn't comply, eviction, depending on what a court ended up ruling. How did this happen? Apparently a disgruntled neighbour clued in the HOA after they got upset about a parked car. Neighbours! Such fun!

Still, it's a legitimately difficult situation. In a video, Chandler, who has a background in law, laid out the stakes. "This extremely unique and rare scenario poses the question: [Does] filming and uploading YouTube videos from your home constitute the home as a business?" he asked. "Does it matter how many views I have or how much income I make from it? Because to be honest, I do the same thing millions of other Americans do."

He noted that his equipment was said to be the main culprit, but added that if that's the case, what's to stop an online business from transforming into a home business the second somebody, say, breaks out a webcam to conduct a meeting?

Speaking to AJC, Dana Johnson, Cobb County's head of community development, said that the problem was actually multifaceted. The county had issued a "notice of violation" because 1) Chandler and friends had too many unrelated people living in the same house, and 2) they didn't have a business licence.

"There are specific rules for running a business out of your home, which differs from those in a commercial area, to ensure that the residential integrity of neighbourhoods are not compromised," said Johnson.

Earlier today, Chandler said he applied for and received a business licence, so that part is taken care of. Still, there's the pesky matter of archaic zoning laws to deal with. On that front, Chandler is less optimistic.

On the upside, Chandler said he's received invites to set up shop in neighbouring counties, so he and his fellow YouTubers are not without options.

That said, I doubt this is the last we'll hear about this sort of situation. Networks like YouTube and Twitch have blurred the lines between business and hobby, and then they have kicked some sand atop those blurred lines for good measure. At what precise point does social media turn from a hobby into a business? Finding a point that's universally applicable is probably impossible, given that subscriber numbers and things of the like are not necessarily indicative of income level or professionalism. And what constitutes the home becoming a place of business under these circumstances? How much equipment usage? What kind? If you're just streaming a video game, versus say filming yourself and your home while streaming a video game, is there a difference?

All that in mind, when does law enforcement get involved, and how? These are big questions, ones I'm not entirely sure local governments are equipped to deal with at the moment. But I suppose we'll see.


    [Does] filming and uploading YouTube videos from your home constitute the home as a business?"

    Hmmmmm interesting question. That's gonna be one that's impossible to answer in a black and white sense. You'd need to take into account income, viewership all that sort of thing.

    So I guess my answer is: Potato?

      Its not really a tough question, if your receiving revenue from it, its a home business.

      The law whilst being archaic, isn't exactly hard to interpret.

        So is an author writing from home running a 'home business'? (just curious)

          Further to that, what if I film it elsewhere, then upload it from home? What if I film it from home and upload elsewhere?

          Is the filming the issue? Or where I actually make it accessible to others so I can make money?

          I would argue no, only in that a writer will likely have little impact on the home or surrounding neighbourhood.

          A Youtuber in his own home would fall under the same category in most cases, but here we have other factors in play.

        doesn't that mean if you run a blog and you write something from home you're basically running a business from home? ad revenues count yea?

        I'm not a lawyer or anything so pardon me for being utterly clueless lol

        this is actually rather interesting, the whole definition thing

        Last edited 13/01/17 2:45 pm

          Yes and no?

          Yes in that it is a business, but no in that the business has no impact on the surrounding neighbourhood.

          The main factor here is you are dealing with a home owners association, where the members make up a committee.

          My guess the neighbour put a complaint forward, they decided rules had been broken and voted to pursue.

          While I think they are being a little over zealous, if you live in an area controlled by a home owners association, you live by their ruling.
          You do get a vote in meetings, put forth motions etc

          We need far more details, number of residents, number of vehicles, the original complaint, association rules and so on, to get a better idea of legalities.

          I'm going to assume that the house is part of a gated community or the like for there to be a HOA with the powers we see here.

          I can say, if they have in fact broken any established rule or failed to meet an obligation, it doesn't matter how arbitrary or stupid that rule/obligation is, as they already agreed to it.

        So if I make $5 -10 a week from gaming/streaming that's considered a business? -
        I don't think so.
        When you make over a certain threshold, yes you will need to fill in the required tax information but that's really it - in context of this story.

        This is really about some boring old fossils who have nothing better to do but complain about "the youths making money from home in our neighborhood"

        Actually a big problem in America, these home owner associations, the power gets to their heads.

      It's going to be a relevant question if Adelaide succeeds in their super fast business Internet scheme.

      I can see many Youtubers considering a commercial identity to get early access, if it even counts in Australia.

    This raises an interesting question about virtual offices and remote contracting. If I'm part of a business that has no physical office and is instead a group of people working in their homes and communicating digitally, is each house a business? What if we hired an office for the physical infrastructure but never actually worked there? (I know of places that do this) If I'm not the business owner, am I still liable when working from home?

    I'm no legal prodigy either but this is really interesting.
    As noted 'is an author (or blogger/journalist) writing from home running a 'home business'?'

    I guess it comes down to the context of employment. If I work from home, im not operating a business from home, i derive my income from my head office. Its the same for a blogger or journalist, you may work from home, but you derive your income from your head office so that is the location of the business. A freelance journalist or blogger though (and by extension a youtuber) is technically self employed and would be operating a business from home as they do their work and on sell to third parties (unlike working at home employed by a specific business).
    This is where the trap will be for youtubers. As they are not employed by youtube, but instead on sell or take royalties from their services, they are operating a business from home.

    Here's another question. do youtubers pay tax on their earnings as a business or as an employee of a business (youtube)? If you can answer that, you probably have your answer to the whole issue.

    "homeowners association" So pretty much a bunch of morons with their heads up their own rectum.

    *Have dealt with neighborhood associations before. Usually a gathering of the most wankerish people in the neighborhood.

    Judging by this they broke the rules agreed upon when signing the lease. Pretty clear cut case really. Just another article on the internet about someone doing something they aren't suppose to and then complaining when they get caught out doing it.

    My wife is a graphic designer and has a large number of clients and does it all from the toyroom. No clients visit the house, it is a purely digital enterprise (as is the case for Streamers). If the principle is that neighbourhoods shouldn't have commercial traffic into homes, then in the case of this article, the number of un-tenanted visitors would set this apart from the business that my wife runs. While it talks about a single car, who's to say there wasn't a single car that formed the basis of a legitimate complaint, but that there was behaviour preceeding the complaint whereby heaps and heaps of people continued to show up at this house. If that's the case, and it feels likely that it is, it's understandable for neighbours and council to call on zoning laws to remove the disruption.

    I've lived next to busy houses before and it's a complete pain in the arse. If I had neighbours moved in who always had visitors and always had stacks of people showing up, I'd be nervous about it... maybe that's because I'm getting older, but to me it really feels like they might have downplayed their own impact on the local area.

    The other interesting question here is whether the rules are being enforced in a non-discriminatory fashion. That is, if there are many other people in the neighbourhood also conducting business from their homes but Chandler is the only one being prosecuted, that could form part of a defence.

    Surely it's the "too many residents" thing that's the issue and the YouTubing as just a technicality?

    Do they have a bed set up in the loungeroom?

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