Pat Raynor, a lifelong hairstylist, became interested in working from home after her husband Harold passed away in 2009. His 10-year battle with a debilitating medical condition left Pat with extensive medical bills, exacerbated by the loss of Harold’s income. Pat, who values hard work and cherishes her independence, resolved to do whatever it took to stay in the home she and Harold had bought together in 1999.
Pat still pays the mortgage and property tax on that home. Those are fixed costs, and Pat must work in order to afford them. But working comes with costs of its own. As a sole proprietor, Pat pays both income tax and self-employment tax to the federal government. She is 66 and must drive to and from work, which has become moderately hazardous for her in the dark and sometimes icy winter months. Renting a commercial hair salon costs $135 per week, no matter how much she makes. She realized that she could eliminate the costs of commuting and renting by moving her business into her home.
Tennessee state law allows home salons, and Pat invested over $10,000 to renovate her home and obtain a Residential Shop license from the Tennessee State Board of Cosmetology. She opened for business on April 24, 2013. Pat is friends with most of her neighbors and counts many of them among her clients. It was easy for those neighbors to get to her house, and because Pat only works by appointment and didn’t put a sign out front, she wasn’t generating traffic from curious walk-ins the way a downtown barbershop might have. With no commercial rent and no commute, this arrangement was safe, comfortable and affordable—a perfect way for Pat to keep working in her “youthful old age.”
Alas, Pat’s home-based hair salon was short-lived. On November 26, 2013, Nashville sent her a cease-and-desist letter, ordering her to shut down her home-based business. Pat called the city’s Codes Department—which wouldn’t tell her who had complained—and learned that her state shop license was no protection against Nashville’s client prohibition. She was told to clear out her salon and schedule an inspection. After the city no-showed the first two times it told Pat to have her home ready, it sent three agents to verify that she was in compliance. They warned her never to cut hair in her home studio again, or she would be taken to court.