The Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection, the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment, and the Union of Syrian Chambers of Commerce are currently working to issue a circular targeted at people working from home. The circular is meant to assist them in obtaining commercial registration based on their home’s location without converting their home’s legal status from residential to commercial.
However, the issue appears complex and demands a great deal of coordination to address several intersecting problems.
In early November, the director of companies at the Ministry of Internal Trade told the semi-official newspaper Al-Watan that the Union of Syrian Chambers of Commerce would define what comprises “intellectual professions.” The Ministry of Local Administration will grant administrative licences for housing units being used by such professionals, while the Ministry of Internal Trade will grant commercial registrations.
It is not completely clear what the various ministries mean by “intellectual professions.” Official media outlets gave examples like graphic design and journalism but excluded others, such as electronic marketing because it was previously subject to specific licensing requirements. The director of companies told Al-Watan that the soon-to-be-issued circular would include a list of the various intellectual professions needing a licence.
The Directorate of Companies gives “an administrative licence to practise a profession,” a precondition for starting work in any commercial or industrial profession. The essential requirements for obtaining the licence include: providing a commercial register, ownership, or lease document for a commercial real estate property and already having another administrative licence from the administrative unit where the commercial real estate is located. In turn, the administrative licence from the local administrative unit also requires a commercial register.
Under Trade Law No. 33 of 2007, a commercial register is a tool for making a company known. It allows the public to obtain information about that company. It is granted by the Ministry of Internal Trade’s commercial registry secretariat if the applicant has a set of documents, most importantly, ownership or commercial real estate lease contracts.
The Minister of Internal Trade issued two official letters in late September 2021 requesting that the Union of Syrian Chambers of Commerce and the Ministry of Local Administration ease requirements for granting commercial registers to people conducting intellectual professions from their homes. However, until today no commercial registers have been granted without commercial properties.
Commercial properties and residential properties
Commercial real estate is any non-residential real estate used or intended for commercial, professional, industrial, or scientific use, whether or not the property is invested and complete.
The Damasus Governorate Council issued Decision No. 62 in March 2005, allowing residential properties to be used for practising intellectual professions, so long as this usage doesn’t lead to the property changing from residential to commercial. The decision was never implemented.
According to the director of companies, the new circular will also include conditions that these residential properties not be converted to commercial ones. One of those conditions is that no partners or employees of the professional should be in the home and that the commercial register should not be exploited to practise commerce.
The circular will not be made compulsory, he added. However, people working in intellectual professions may be liable for fines should there be any complaints against them related to working from home.