Location Permits

Note: This section provides guidance for permits related to the business location only. Be sure to read the entire guide to learn about business licenses and other requirements.

Several factors may influence your business location decisions. Whether you plan to operate a business from your home or a traditional commercial or industrial location, most business locations will need a permit to demonstrate that they have complied with the requirements to locate the business in their chosen space. This is typically either a Home-Based Business Permit or a Non-Residential Use Permit/Occupancy permit (“Non-RUP”). Other characteristics of your business may affect the approvals you will need, or even how it can operate at a particular location.

If you decide that a commercial space is best for your business, hire a commercial real estate agent.  The contact information on most “space for lease” signs and online ads are the contact information of the landlord’s agent. This landlord agent represents the landlord, not you. Your own agent will have your best interest in mind, not the landlord’s, and will help you to negotiate a lease agreement. There a many factors to consider in a lease agreement that only professionals know well.

Remember that Fairfax County contains within its boundaries five independent localities, each with their own codes, regulations, and processes.

It’s important to consult the right information when making decisions about your business location.

Not sure if your location falls within Fairfax County or one of the incorporated cities or towns?  Read About the Fairfax CORE Localities to determine your location.

If your business is located within one of the incorporated towns or cities (Clifton, Herndon, Vienna, Fairfax City or Falls Church City) read the Guide for Town or City-based Businesses. 

Still not sure?  Contact Fairfax CORE for assistance.

Your business type and business model will influence your location choice.

Fairfax County allows certain businesses to operate from a home, while others are better suited for a commercial or industrial location. You may choose to locate in an “alternative workspace” which includes incubators, accelerators, and other shared space opportunities. More than likely, whatever location type you choose will require at least one permit.

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Before you sign a lease, make sure that you can utilize your chosen space for your intended purpose.

Check the zoning of the property and determine whether there are any limitations that would affect your proposed use. In addition to zoning, you will want to confirm the availability of sufficient parking to meet County requirements, and to ensure that the space was constructed to a building standard that meets the requirements for your use.

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Every building is unique, just like your business. Confirm whether you will need building plans and/or permits to use your chosen space.

Plan2Build provides an excellent overview of the development process in Fairfax County.

Building Plans and Permits

If you will be making any physical changes to the space or propose to change the business use of the space (for example, from warehouse to office) you likely will need building plans and permits. Depending on your use and modifications made to the space, you may be required to have inspections before and/or after you start operating your business.

Permits are filed and reviewed through the PLUS system. The Permit Library webpage provides various site and building permit guides to help you navigate through the application process.

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Nonresidential Use Permit (“NonRUP”)

Every commercial tenant needs a Non-Residential Use/Occupancy Permit. A NonRUP is important because it indicates that a space complies with zoning, building code, and fire marshal requirements and that it is safe for people to be in.

A NonRUP is required to approve both the initial and continued occupancy and use of the structure to which it applies. So if you are taking over an existing business location, the prior tenant had a NonRUP and you will need one as well. The NonRUP is issued to the tenant (not the space) and must be obtained by each tenant prior to occupancy. Tenants should apply for a NonRUP as the final step of starting up the business, and after any construction and associated inspections are completed.

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  • For additional assistance, please contact the Building Division, Land Development Services at 703-631-5101, TTY 711.

 

Sign Permits

A sign permit is required for any sign that will be constructed, erected, altered, refaced, relocated, or expanded. There are many different types of signs, building mounted, freestanding, and even window signs. The regulations for the sizes and types of signs that are allowed can be found in Article 7 of the Zoning Ordinance.

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  • For additional assistance, please contact the Zoning Permits Section, Department of Planning and Development (703) 324-4300 or by email at [email protected]

 

Alternative workspaces may include a business incubator, accelerator, shared office suite, or co-working location.

There are a wide variety of workspace choices available to small business owners, entrepreneurs, and independent workers, such as co-working office spaces, incubators, accelerators, and virtual office spaces. See the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s Alternative Office Space publication to see a list of alternative office spaces in Fairfax County.

Entities that provide alternative workspaces should be aware of their permitting requirements. If you will establish your business in one of these spaces, and that space is already appropriately permitted for your use, you typically will not need a NonRUP. For example, if your business is an office use, and the business entity from which you are renting space has a valid permit for office uses, you likely will not need a permit. If, however, you are proposing to change or add a use (for example, a private school to an existing shared office space) you or your landlord will need to secure a NonRUP to change or add your use. Permits, plans and inspections may be required.

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