Minority and woman entrepreneurs have a lot to think about. Running a start-up is challenging, and especially so for MWBEs, who tend to have limited access to financial and human capital and few professional mentors. That’s one reason why it’s critical for owners of emerging businesses to know what laws apply to them. Not only are violations costly, they can impede a business owner’s ability to get the licenses, permits, and certifications they need.
If your business sells goods or services in New York City, there are a number of laws that govern how you do business and what you can and cannot sell. And while we certainly can’t cover all of them here, we can give you a rundown of the most important things you need to keep in mind as you set up shop.
According to the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, the first thing every entrepreneur needs to know is whether they need a business license and what kind of license they need. Required licenses and permits differ according to industry (there are more than 50 different licenses available in New York City alone) so to make sure you are in compliance with all applicable laws, visit the Department of Consumer Affairs Business Licensing page.
New York City has strict rules about how businesses disclose the price of the items they sell. For example, If you sell goods, you must tag every item with the correct price or list the price of each item on a sign where the item is displayed. If you do more than $2 million in business, each item must be individually tagged.
For businesses that sell a service, such as hair and nail salons, repair shops, tax preparers, computer consultants and the like, you must display a price list where orders are placed and (if they are in different locations) at the cash register. What’s more, you cannot charge different prices for men and women for the same service: it is against the law.
Fines for failing to follow these guidelines can range from $25 to $250 for businesses that sell products and $50 to $500 for those who provide a service.
Payments & Refunds
According to New York City law, every business must post a refund policy, even if that policy is “Absolutely no refunds.” The policy must be displayed where customers can easily read it and include any limitations you impose, such as time limits, the need for a receipt, restocking fees or giving refunds only in the form of a store credit. If you fail to post a refund policy publically, customers are legally entitled to a refund for 30 days.
Your business must also post any limits on the use of credit cards, debit cards or checks. Failing to do either of these things may result in a $50 to $500 fine.
If you do business in New York City, you must provide a written receipt for every purchase of goods or services in excess of $20. Further, if a customer requests one, you must provide a receipt for purchases of $5 or more. The receipt must the details of the purchase, such as:
- Your business name, address and (if applicable) license number
- The purchase date
- The amount paid for each item
- The total paid
- A separate line for tax
- The make and model of any electronics purchase (e.g. a computer or TV) in excess of $100
If the customer made the purchase with a credit or debit card, the receipt can show no more than the last five digits of the card number and cannot show the expiration date.
The fines for failing to follow any of these procedures can be anywhere from $50 to $500.
In addition to following the laws that regulate business practices, New York City business owners must ensure that their place of business is safe. Different laws apply to different industries. However, there are several rules that apply across the board. These include:
Every business operating in New York must have the appropriate number and type of fire extinguishers on the premises. These requirements are outlined in Section 15-02 of Title 3 of the Rules of the City of New York. Further, fire extinguishers must be serviced annually by a FDNY approved company. Sprinkler systems and standpipes also require regular inspection: the frequency of these depends on the industry.
Additionally, duct and hood systems in all commercial kitchens must be inspected by a FDNY certified company every 90 days.
Failure to follow any of these guidelines can result in fines of between $600 and $1,000.
Sidewalks and Gutters
All businesses in New York are required to sweep the sidewalk in front of the premises as well as the first 1.5 feet of the adjoining street. Sidewalks must be kept clear, although some streets allow the business to display goods outside as long the display is within 3 feet of the store and not more than 5 feet tall. Sidewalk signs are not allowed.
Failing to follow these regulations can result in separate fines of $100 to $300 per violation.
The City of New York requires all businesses that do not remove their own waste to contract with a waste carter that is licensed by the Business Integrity Commission, which regulates how much and for what services these companies can charge. The decal of the waste disposal company and the pick-up schedule must be posted on the window of the business and the business must have a copy of the contract on site.
Additionally, the law sets forth certain restrctions on when and in what manner businesses can set out trash. For example, trash must be in black plastic garbage bags or a covered container; recyclables must be in a bundles, clear plastic bags or covered bins. Lastly, businesses can only set out waste within two hours of a daytime pickup or, for nightime pickup, within one hour of closing.
Failure to follow these procedures can result in a $100 to $300 fine.
Getting Help with Compliance
Obviously, the laws regarding how you run your business are many, and some are quite complex. That’s why the NYC Department of Small Business Services offers free compliance consultations to help business owners understand the rules and avoid violations before they occur. These consultations are not inspections and businesses will not be cited for any issues the consultant finds. The inspection’s only purpose is to help emerging businesses comply with existing laws.
To request a consultation, use this form on the Department of Small Business Services website, or call 212-618-8810 for additional information.
About The Carmoon Group
The Carmoon Group, Ltd. is an insurance broker headquartered in Hicksville, New York. A minority-owned business, we are committed to helping small, disadvantages businesses grow and succeed. Through our large affiliate network, we provide comprehensive business insurance and risk management solutions to companies all across the United States. Please give us a call today so we can schedule an appointment for your insurance review. Or, if you prefer, just reach out online and we will get back to you at a convenient time.